The defense attorney for a man charged with murder in a Lindenhurst drunken-driving crash used the lead detective in the case Friday to try to undermine the prosecution's most compelling evidence that the defendant drove recklessly before the wreck.
Michael Grasing, 34, of West Babylon is on trial in Riverhead before state Supreme Court Justice Mark Cohen, charged with second-degree murder in the June 24, 2012, crash that killed Brittney Walsh, 18, of Lindenhurst.
Grasing is accused of driving at high speed with a blood-alcohol level four times the legal limit when his Nissan sedan hit Walsh's sport utility vehicle from behind on Montauk Highway, sending it tumbling sideways for more than a block.
To establish the murder charge Suffolk prosecutors must prove that Grasing drove recklessly with a depraved indifference to human life. To do that they've relied on the words of a witness -- who has since died -- to police officers at the crash scene.
Officers say John Patsalos, 46, told them he saw Grasing speed out of a Wendy's parking lot and drive at up to 100 mph, weaving in and out of traffic and running red lights, before hitting Walsh's SUV.
Trial witnesses have testified that Grasing was driving fast, but none said they saw him darting in and out of traffic or running red lights.
During cross-examination Friday by defense attorney William Keahon, Det. Scott Aquilino said he learned only Wednesday of Patsalos' criminal record, which includes a manslaughter conviction for killing a man during a gas station robbery.
Aquilino acknowledged that detectives examined surveillance video from Wendy's and found no evidence that Grasing had been there. When police searched Grasing's car, they found nothing from Wendy's in it, and no alcohol either.
Assistant District Attorney Laura Newcombe suggested Patsalos' record was irrelevant. "Did those convictions from the 1980s affect Mr. Patsalos' ability to see?" she asked Aquilino. Cohen sustained an objection, so the detective did not answer.
Later, toxicologist Brian Macri of the Suffolk Crime Laboratory testified that he tested two blood samples taken from Grasing the night of the crash. One had a blood-alcohol level of 0.30 percent; the other 0.32 percent, he said.
To get a reading that high, Macri said, a person would have to down at least 15 drinks in the previous two hours -- more if he was eating.
Keahon, who has not challenged any evidence of his client's intoxication, declined to cross-examine Macri.