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The Florida Bar

Jim Leyritz DUI Manslaughter Trial Discussed by Fort Lauderdale

Jim Leyritz, the former professional baseball player, has been awaiting trial on a DUI manslaughter charge for several years. He was involved in a car wreck in the early morning hours of December 28, 2007, that left a woman in another vehicle dead. The trial was completed yesterday, says Broward DUI Lawyer William Moore, who has followed the case in the news. The Leyritz case was complicated: the toxicology tests performed on the driver of the other vehicle demonstrated that her blood alcohol content was well over the legal limit at which intoxication is presumed, 0.08 percent. Likewise, a blood test taken several hours after the accident showed Leyritz’s BAC over the limit as well. This has resulted in public controversy as Leyritz has maintained his innocence. According to media reports, the prosecution never offered any sort of plea deal.

Leyritz was charged with DUI manslaughter. The jury found him guilty of simple DUI, determining that he was in fact driving under the influence of alcohol but there was insufficient evidence to find that he had actually caused or contributed to the car accident. On the contrary, there was evidence presented by an expert witness showing that due to the timing of Leyritz’s consumption of the alcohol — some of it shortly prior to getting in his car to leave his birthday celebration — rendered his BAC higher hours later than it was when he was driving. Nonetheless, because the jury convicted Leyritz of driving under the influence, the jurors were apparently not persuaded by this argument, notes Fort Lauderdale DUI attorney William Moore.

The passenger in Leyritz’s car testified that Leyritz had driven through the intersection where the accident occurred as the light changed from yellow to red. Based on that timing, the other vehicle would have likely had a completely red light, rather than a green light. In the absence of hard evidence showing otherwise, the jury apparently accepted this explanation, concluding that they could not find beyond a reasonable doubt that Leyritz had caused the unfortunate accident.

This matter has received widespread media attention due to both Leyritz’s fame and the unusual facts of the case. It is uncommon for a DUI-related accident to involve two drivers whose blood tested over the legal limit. The criminal standard “beyond a reasonable doubt” does not mean beyond all possible doubt, or beyond the shadow of any doubt, but simply beyond any doubts which would be plausible or realistic. In this case, the jurors returned for a rare Saturday session to finish up the case.

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