Ithaca, N.Y. — Saying most of his ammunition would be saved for cross-examination, the defense lawyer of a Tompkins teen charged with manslaughter said the facts would show that the prosecution’s “extravagant” claims are baseless.

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“You’re going to have a case in which the evidence of excessive speed doesn’t exist,” said Joseph Joch, the defense attorney for James Crosby, 19.

Crosby has been charged with manslaughter in a fatal New Year’s Eve crash that took the lives of Spencer residents Kathy Lattimore, 67, and Derek Nichols, 20. A non-jury trial began in Tompkins County Court on Monday.

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Joch, the defense attorney, said the prosecution’s emotional appeals distracted from the real issues.

“This case isn’t about emotion. This case is about facts,” Joch said.

Joch criticized the equation the New York State Police investigator used to determine that speeding preceded the crash. He said that the road conditions had, in fact, deteriorated from poor weather conditions that night. Black ice, Joch emphasized, could cause unwieldy conditions on the road.

“There were a lot of things that were fudged, and a lot of things were by guess and by gosh — and the answer is wrong,” Joch said of the state police investigation. “And we will demonstrate that.”

Joch admitted that his defendant had crossed the double solid yellow line and passed four vehicles. But that didn’t mean he was guilty of recklessly causing death, Joch said.

“The prosecution wants to tell you to punish this man because he passed four vehicles to no effect and with no known mishap whatsoever,” Joch said. “I think you should reject that entreaty.”

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Jeff Stein

Jeff Stein is the founder and former editor of the Ithaca Voice.