Tag Archives: car accident reconstruction expert witness

Jersey City Police Officer Uses Accident Reconstruction Expert Witness in Vehicle Death Trial

A Jersey City police officer was acquitted on all charges stemming from a fatal accident after his defense was aided by testimony by a car accident reconstruction expert witness.  According to the reconstruction expert testimony the defendant was not driving recklessly at the time of the accident due to conditions of the environment and the nature of the road.  Jurors seemed to agree, and dismissed all of the charges.

Jersey City Police Officer Involved in Fatal Car Accident

In April of 2013 Jersey City officer Michael Spolizino was involved in an accident which led to the death of 24-year-old pedestrian Stephen Clifford.  Spolizino’s truck hit Clifford at an estimated 60 MPH according to prosecutors – a considerable speed considering the 25 MPH limit on the street.  Prosecutors also argued the defendant did stop for almost a block after he hit the victim, suggesting he was either traveling at dangerous speeds or driving negligently.

Spolizino was charged with death by auto and leaving the scene of an accident, and prosecutors attempted to earn a conviction by arguing the defendant was responsible for Clifford’s death because his driving was reckless considering his speed and the conditions of the road.  A charge for aggravated manslaughter was dropped earlier in the trial at the request of the defense, but Spolizino still faced 5 – 10 years in prison for each charge if convicted.

Defense attorneys countered by arguing Spolizino was not driving as recklessly as prosecutors alleged, and Clifford shared responsibility for the accident by crossing against the green light at the intersection where the accident occurred.  To support their argument, defense attorneys called an accident reconstruction expert witness to explain to jurors how Spolizino was not negligent in causing Clifford’s death.

Accident Reconstruction Expert Witness Testifies in Spolizino Trial

Defense attorneys for Officer Michael Spolizino called Andrew Pisani, an accident reconstruction expert witness, to talk about the circumstances of the collision that killed pedestrian Stephen Clifford.  Pisani is a former police officer who now serves as an expert witness in car accident cases, and he took the stand to explain to jurors the defendant would likely not have seen the victim at the time of the collision.  Pisani told jurors that a second car approached the intersection where Spolizino struck Clifford with its high beams on, which would make visibility difficult at the time of the accident due to a glare from the headlights.

Further compounding the glare is a curve in the road where Clifford was hit, which would have made it almost impossible for the driver to see Clifford when he was hit. Pisani conceded that Spolizino’s speed was a factor in the collision, but the expert repeatedly emphasized that the defendant could not have seen the victim and Clifford entered the intersection despite a red light.  According to Pisani, based on Spolizino’s speed, poor visibility, and Clifford’s actions the defendant could not have avoided the collision.

Prosecutors aggressively cross-examined Pisani’s expert testimony, and forced him to admit that had Spolizino could potentially have avoided the accident had he not been speeding.

Jury Acquits Jersey City Cop in Vehicular Death Case

After deliberations in the Michael Spolizino vehicular death case jurors returned a verdict of not guilty on all charges for his role in Stephen Clifford’s death.  Despite efforts by the prosecutors to emphasis the defendant’s arguably reckless speed, jurors ultimately declined to convict because of Spolizino’s poor visibility and Clifford’s responsibility for the collision as explained by the defense accident reconstruction expert witness.

Car Accident Reconstruction Expert Faces Aggressive Challenge from Prosecutor

A vehicular manslaughter trial in Ithaca, New York turned heated last week when the lead prosecutor accused the defendant’s car accident expert witness of being a “mercenary” willing to testify to anything for money.  While every expert witness testifying at trial does so for money, the contentious back-and-forth highlighted concerns that some experts prioritize financial interests over relevant testimony.

Vehicular Manslaughter Case Relies on Accident Reconstruction Analysis

Last New Year’s Eve, a Chevrolet Monte Carlo driven by 19-year-old James Crosby collided with a Jeep driven by Samantha Aarnio.  The collision killed one passenger in each vehicle: Kathy Lattimore, Aarnio’s 67-year-old mother-in-law, and Derek Nichols, Crosby’s 20-year-old friend, and, after investigation, Crosby was charged with vehicular manslaughter for both deaths.  He is also charged with second-degree assault, third-degree assault, second-degree reckless endangerment and reckless driving for his role in causing the accident.  Judge John Rowley is presiding over a bench trial that will not use a jury to come to a verdict, and prosecutors are asking that Crosby be found guilty and sentenced to 4 – 12 years in jail.

In his defense, Crosby’s attorneys have taken issue with the police report detailing the investigation.  The results of the police report suggest that Crosby’s Monte Carlo was traveling at a speed between 84 – 91 mph before colliding with Aarnio’s Jeep, which was traveling at 45 mph.  Pointing to this data, prosecutors have argued that Crosby was clearly in violation of traffic laws and was moving at such an unsafe speed that he was acting recklessly in such a way that he should have known would endanger the lives of others.  Concluding that his clearly reckless actions were the direct cause of two deaths in the resulting accident, prosecutors relied on the accident diagnosis found in the police report to convince Judge Rowley that Crosby is guilty of two counts manslaughter.

William Fischer, a crash reconstruction expert witness hired by the defense, disagreed with the information found in the report and took police investigator’s to task for shoddy and incomplete analysis of the accident.

Defense Car Accident Expert Testifies During Manslaughter Trial

Mr. Fischer began his testimony by informing the Court that his independent investigation concluded that Crosby was traveling at 55 mph – a speed much closer to the posted speed limit.  Further, Fischer testified that Aarnio’s Jeep was moving much slower than 45 mph, meaning that the accident happened at a far lesser speed than reported by police.  Fischer directly contradicted the police report’s analysis of the speed of the accident, allowing defense attorneys to argue that Crosby was not driving at a negligently high rate of speed prior to the crash.

Additionally, Mr. Fischer found fault in the police investigation because officers declined to perform skid tests at the scene.  Saying that police need to gather an estimation of the coefficient of friction in order to get accurate speed tests, Fischer called the investigation incomplete and prone to error.  Calling the police’s tactics a “bastardized” test of determining speed, the defense expert witness claimed that his calculations, which were more complete, represented a reliable estimate of the speed of the two vehicles.

Fischer also testified that a lack of deformity in the filaments of the rear taillights suggest that Aarnio’s Jeep may not have had its lights on at the time of the crash – a relevant fact considering the accident happened 19 minutes after sunset.  Taken together, Fischer’s car accident reconstruction expert testimony targeted potential flaws in the prosecution’s analysis which suggested Crosby was driving negligently at the time of the accident.  By calling Fisher, Crosby’s defense team attempted to introduce reasonable doubt to the question of his negligence, hoping to convince Judge Rowley that manslaughter is not an appropriate charge.

Prosecutors Challenge Defense Car Expert Witness

In response to Fischer’s criticism of the police accident reconstruction, lead prosecutor Eliza Filipowski challenged the car accident expert on a number of points.  First, Filipowski pointed out that Fischer has been openly critical of skid tests, raising questions about why he condemned the police for not using one in their calculation of Crosby’s speed.  Although Fischer responded that any test of friction would be better than none, Filipowski followed her line of questioning by contrasting the techniques used by police investigators, which relied on electronic optical measurements of speed, to Fischer’s calculations of speed, which featured an inaccuracy that the defense expert could not adequately explain.

Finally, Filipowski attacked Fisher’s credentials, which have not been updated recently, and challenged his history of testifying only for defendants in car accident reconstruction cases.  Pointing out that Fischer, who was paid $12,000 for his expert witness testimony, failed to provide a complete or consistent critique of police tactics or an accurate reconstruction method, Filipowski attacked the reliability and credibility of the defense expert in an effort to promote the state’s case for a manslaughter conviction.