Ithaca, N.Y. — Catherine Kraus was with her friends on New Year’s Eve 2013 when she noticed a maroon vehicle go racing past her on the road.
Why I shop downtown — Marty
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“They are going to cause an accident,” Kraus said in Tompkins County Court Friday morning, about her thoughts at the time she saw the vehicle.
Kraus, 22, a student at RIT, testified on Friday that she saw the vehicle crossing the double yellow line and was concerned enough to consider calling the police. (She said she did not because she did not want to use her cell phone while on the road.)
Assistant District Attorney Eliza Filipowski turned to Kraus to help prove that local teen James Crosby, 19, was responsible for causing the crash on Route 34/96 in Newfield that claimed the lives of two Spencer residents: Derek Nichols, who was in Crosby’s car, and a passenger in the other car involved in the crash: Kathy Lattimore, 67.
Investigator Travis Webster’s reconstruction report concluded that Crosby was going between 84 and 90 miles per hour in the moments before the crash.
Assistant Tompkins County District Attorney Eliza Filipowski is seeking a 4-12 year prison sentence for Crosby, The Voice previously reported. But Crosby’s lawyers say state police erred in their calculations of Crosby’s speed.
Forensic witness William C. Fischer has said in court papers that when Investigator Webster began his reconstruction, he started by assuming that Crosby was traveling very fast. The Voice’s Nate Tailleur wrote: “Fischer suggests that the rest of Webster’s reconstruction was meant to “prove” what Inv. Webster had already assumed — namely, that the speedometer reading in Crosby’s car was accurate.”
During cross-examination of the witness, defense attorney Joseph Joch tried questioning Kraus to explain further her reaction to seeing the maroon vehicle crossing the double yellow line.
“Whether it was not proper or taking the chance it was illegal either way,” Kraus said.
Joch asked if seeing the maroon vehicle cross the double yellow line “annoyed you.”
“I don’t think annoyed is the proper feeling,” Kraus responded.
Then, Joch said, what is?
“It worried me for the safety of the drivers,” Kraus said, “because it was not a safe choice to make.”
After a short break in court, Joch said that this type of testimony should be precluded and not considered by the court.
“There were no speed or sight distances,” Joch said.
“There’s just not a reasonable amount of reliability to this testimony to link it to anything that happened at the accident scene.”
This gets to the heart of the case. ADA Filipowski said she strongly disagreed with Joch’s motion.
“This is all one part of the same criminal transaction,” Filipowski said of Crosby’s alleged speeding and crossing of the double yellow line. “…The same reckless, egregious behavior.”
Judge Rowley ruled that the testimony is admissible.
But the weight of the testimony, Rowley said, “will be articulated in my final decision.”