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Jennifer Jorgensen retrial in 3 deaths

Jennifer Jorgensen consults with her attorney Martin Lorenzotti

Jennifer Jorgensen consults with her attorney Martin Lorenzotti at the conclusion of the first day of the her second trial. (Jan. 30, 2012) Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan

A Miller Place woman is on trial for the second time in a year, charged with driving head-on into another car in Ridge while impaired by alcohol and a prescription anti-anxiety drug, killing three people.

Suffolk Assistant District Attorney Al Croce told jurors in his opening statement Monday that Jennifer Jorgensen, 32, is responsible for the deaths of Robert Kelly, 74; his wife, Mary Kelly, 70; and Jorgensen's daughter Ashley Kaiser, born prematurely in an emergency Caesarean delivery as a result of the head-on crash May 30, 2008, on Whiskey Road.

"She took their lives with reckless driving, fueled by alcohol and prescription medicines," Croce said.

But defense attorney Martin Lorenzotti of Central Islip told jurors that the blood tests showing alcohol and clonazepam were unreliable and not supported by any other evidence.

"No one at the [crash] scene smelled alcohol on her breath, and some were 4 inches from her face," he said. Jorgensen was coherent and spoke without slurring her words after the crash, Lorenzotti said.

He noted that it took Suffolk police 13 months after the crash to arrest his client and predicted that the attempt to prosecute her "will fail, miserably."

Jorgensen's first trial for aggravated vehicular homicide ended last March with a hung jury after several jurors said they found the evidence of impairment to be unconvincing. If convicted, she faces a maximum of 81/3 to 25 years in prison.

Croce said there was plenty of evidence of impairment and recklessness. "Whiskey Road is not a straight road," he said. "It is not forgiving. It has curves. It does not have shoulders. It demands respect."

Jorgensen gave it none, Croce said. Evidence shows she was 20 mph over the 30 mph speed limit, distracted by a cellphone call, not using her seat belt and impaired by drugs and alcohol when he said she drifted into the wrong lane, leaving Robert Kelly nowhere to go.

Robert Kelly died within minutes from a torn aorta. His wife died 27 days later from serious injuries, including broken legs, broken ribs and a broken pelvis. And Ashley lived five days before dying from brain, liver and kidney damage. Jorgensen was eight months pregnant at the time of the crash.

Before testimony began, Jorgensen said she blacked out from a medical emergency while driving.

Lorenzotti noted that prosecutors are relying on a sample of Jorgensen's blood that was so small that forensic scientists had to add blood from a blood bank to test it, a procedure he said the lab had not done before.

Pointing to his client, he said, "There's your guinea pig -- Jennifer Jorgensen."

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