We will be providing updates of the case as it progresses.

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Ithaca, N.Y. — Family and friends of a 20-year-old killed in a Tompkins County crash last New Year’s Eve appeared in court Monday morning for the trial of a driver charged with manslaughter in the death.

At least three people wore bright orange sweatshirts with the name of the victim, “Derek Charles Nichols,” written in black letters on the front. Both they and a woman who identified herself as Nichols’ mother said they did not wish to comment at this time.

James Crosby, 19, of Van Etten, has been charged with second-degree manslaughter in the case. Nichols, 20, and Kathy Lattimore, 67, were killed in the crash after Crosby lost control of his vehicle on a Newfield road, according to law enforcement.

Friends and family of Derek Nichols appeared in Tompkins County Court Monday

Crosby’s defense team has argued that police used “meaningless” evidence and “junk science” to conclude that the teenager was responsible in the deaths. Read The Voice’s full account of Crosby’s defense here.

As of about 9:15 a.m., over two dozen people had filled the courtroom for the trial.

Crosby sat behind the defense table wearing khakis, black shoes and a black sweater with red and white stripes.

Photograph of Crosby’s Monte Carlo from a police report.

Here’s how The Voice’s Nate Tailleur explained the state’s case against Crosby in an article in November:

Crosby

Crosby was charged with two counts of manslaughter in the 2nd degree, assault in the 2nd, assault in the 3rd, reckless endangerment in the 2nd, and reckless driving. Assistant Tompkins County District Attorney Eliza Filipowski is seeking a 4-12 year prison sentence for Crosby.

“Recklessness” is the key word in the case for the prosecution. If Crosby was being reckless, he is a criminal.

In her summary of facts, Filipowski writes “the defendant operated a vehicle in a reckless and erratic manner, at a high rate of speed and passing other vehicles in no-pass areas.”

In order to establish the “erratic” and “reckless” nature of Crosby’s driving, Filopowski relied on information provided by Inv. Webster of the NYS Police Collision Reconstruction Unit. Webster produced a Forensic Report based on evidence from the collision scene to conclude that Crosby was going between 84 and 90 mph at the moment of the crash.


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Jeff Stein

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