Ithaca, N.Y. — The prosecution and defense attorneys are making their closing arguments in Tompkins County Court Tuesday morning in the manslaughter case of 19-year-old James Crosby, who is accused in the crash deaths of two Spencer residents.
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A few dozen people — including family of victim Derek Nichols, 20 — have packed the courtroom for the arguments.
Defense attorney Joseph Joch argued that police were wrong to conclude Crosby was recklessly speeding before the fatal New Year’s Eve 2013 accident in Newfield.
Joch attacked the state police’s accident reconstruction investigation, saying authorities misapplied formulas about pedestrian crash dynamics to a case where these equations were meaningless.
Joch envisioned a sign hanging up at the state police office: “Customized Speed Estimates: Made To Order.”
“What do you need?,” he said, mocking state police, “A 60 in a 30 zone? We can do it.”
Joch said state police dressed up “cherry picked numbers” and hoped that a jury would favor them over a hired defense attorney.
“There exist standard, routine, generally accepted procedures, which is based upon the science of physics, the concept of the conservation of linear momentum,” Joch said.
Those procedures, Joch said, were simply ignored by the police in exchange for their favored formulas.
Joch tried picking apart the use of co-efficients to calculate the friction of different objects involved in the crash. His main assault, however, was on the use of the “Searle equation,” the pedestrian crash equation he says was never intended for use in a major car crash.
“You do the tests and you use the formula. The speed out of impact in miles per hour equals the square of 30 DF – Distance times friction. Had they done that … they wouldn’t have needed any resort to this bogus theory,” he said.
As he did at the beginning of his closing argument, Joch imagined the state police conversation that precipitated the charges against Crosby.
He imagined state police talking to each other about two dead people, several witnesses testifying to reckless driving and a speedometer that read 91 mph.
“That was the last minute when any unbiased assessment took place here,” Joch said, “that was when they were going to find a speed that agreed with that speedometer.”