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.