WBEN sought out renowned Buffalo criminal defense attorney Paul Cambria for his take on the civil trial just getting underway of Dr. James Corasanti in a wrongful-death lawsuit filed by the parents of Alexandria Rice. Dr. Corasanti, who hit and killed Ms. Rice with his vehicle in 2011, was convicted in a criminal trial of misdemeanor driving while intoxicated but acquitted of manslaughter, leaving the scene of an accident, and evidence tampering.
Click here for the interview.
Mr. Cambria said about the jury selection that “it’s going to be very difficult to find someone who hasn’t formed some sort of opinion about the case, about the first trial, so they have a tough task ahead of them.” He noted that the some people may claim not to have heard about the case. “Believe it or not, there will be people who say that. Maybe somebody just moved here or they just don’t care about current events.”
“It seems to me,” he said, “that they are going to get down to the point of finding jurors who say that they haven’t formed an opinion.”
Burden-of-proof bar is lower this time
Asked about the differences between a civil and criminal trial, Mr. Cambria explained, “The voir dire would be the same in the sense of asking questions and trying to ferret out prejudice.” He continued, “The difference is there are six jurors rather than 12 jurors, and the burden of proof is much different in a civil case than in criminal case. Criminal, of course, is beyond a reasonable doubt, and civil is by a preponderance, which basically means like 51 percent, so it’s a much easier burden on the part of the plaintiffs.”
What the jury may hear
Dr. Corasanti is likely to testify, according to Mr. Cambria. “He testified in the criminal case, and there is no reason for him not to testify in this case.”
“I think that the plaintiffs’ lawyers are going to try to get punitive damages,” Mr. Cambria said and explained that that are “very difficult to get in New York State because you have to show wanton, reckless conduct almost to the degree of criminal on top of compensatory damages, which would be the value of the life and . . . if there was any pain and suffering and so on.”
Likely length of the trial
“You’re probably talking about a couple of weeks,” Mr. Cambria said. “Remember the last case there were experts called [and] you’re also going to have testimony that was from the criminal trial that they’ll be able to use. That may shorten it a little bit because you already have the positions in the transcripts from the criminal trial.”
A member of Lipsitz Green’s Criminal Defense Trials and Appeals Practice Area, Mr. Cambria also advises clients on Constitutional and First Amendment law, zoning and land use, antitrust, and professional licensing defense.