TODAY'S PAPER
Good Morning
Good Morning
Long IslandSuffolk

Jorgensen's fate back in jury's hands

A file photo of Jennifer Jorgensen in Riverhead

A file photo of Jennifer Jorgensen in Riverhead Criminal Court. (March 21, 2011) Credit: James Carbone

For the second time in a year, a Miller Place woman's fate is in a jury's hands after a trial on charges of killing three people while driving impaired by alcohol and prescription medicine.

Jennifer Jorgensen, 32, faces aggravated vehicular manslaughter and other charges in the May 2008 deaths of Robert Kelly, 74, of Ridge; his wife, Mary Kelly, 70; and Jorgensen's daughter Ashley, who was born prematurely because of the crash and died days later. Jorgensen allegedly drove head-on into the Kellys' car on Whiskey Road in Ridge.

A trial on the same charges a year ago before State Supreme Court Justice William Condon ended in a mistrial when jurors could not agree on a verdict.

In closing arguments Tuesday, prosecutors said the crash happened because she was impaired by alcohol and clonazepam, and distracted by a cellphone conversation. But her attorney, Martin Lorenzotti of Central Islip, said it was likely the result of a medical emergency and said the lab tests that showed evidence of intoxication were the result of bad, experimental science.

"The blood work in this case is a tremendous problem," he said. "It's unorthodox and it's never been done before."

Prosecutors relied on a small sample of blood taken from Jorgensen after she arrived at Stony Brook University Medical Center. Because the sample was so small forensic scientists had to augment it with other blood to test it.

"This was a one-off test," Lorenzotti said. "What happened here, it's not right."

He said both the preservation of evidence and the test itself were suspect, particularly since people who responded to the crash scene found her alert, speaking clearly and with no odor of alcohol on her breath. Only an emergency room nurse noted an odor, and she didn't report it for two years, he said.

But in her summation to the jury, Assistant District Attorney Laura Newcombe defended the science and said there was other evidence of intoxication. She pointed to a witness' account of Jorgensen's initial words while she was still in her car after the crash: "I'll be good. I won't do this again."

Newcombe said blood-alcohol content shown by the test -- .06 percent -- may not have made her visibly drunk. But with the anti-anxiety drug, Newcombe said, there was no question she was impaired.

Newcombe also suggested Jorgensen engaged in doctor-shopping to get the clonazepam, which she did not report to her obstetrician.

Latest Long Island News