Michael Grasing, now 34, is shown on his way to...

Michael Grasing, now 34, is shown on his way to his arraignment in Central Islip on July 18, 2012. Credit: James Carbone

The reason a West Babylon man should be convicted of murder for a drunken driving crash lies in his "evil" actions both before and after the crash that killed a Lindenhurst teenager, a Suffolk prosecutor told a jury Tuesday.

"Why, ladies and gentleman, is this a murder?" asked Assistant District Attorney Laura Newcombe in her closing argument at the Riverhead trial of Michael Grasing, 34. "He acted with a mental state indicative of depraved indifference to human life. The defendant -- he did not care about the results of his conduct."

Grasing is accused of driving recklessly and at high speed with a blood alcohol content of .32 percent -- four times the legal limit -- when he drove into the back of Brittney Walsh's sport utility vehicle on June 24, 2012, two days after she graduated from Copiague High School. The collision sent her vehicle tumbling down Montauk Highway.

Newcombe asked jurors to imagine her coming home from her first day of work at Kmart, perhaps with music on the radio.

"She was oblivious to the evil barreling down on her, evil that took the form of Michael Grasing," Newcombe said. "Did she feel her head smash into the pavement? The sidewalk? This case is about Brittney Walsh and how he murdered her."

A murder charge in a drunken driving case is rare, because prosecutors have to prove the driver had the necessary mental state to show depraved indifference to human life. State Supreme Court Justice Mark Cohen instructed jurors that they can consider whether extreme intoxication prevented Grasing from forming that mental state, as defense lawyer William Keahon argued to jurors Monday.

Jurors later deliberated for about an hour Tuesday.

Newcombe told jurors that Grasing's mental state was obvious from his actions. Several witnesses described him driving at 70 to 100 mph before the crash, and one of them said Grasing went by so fast in the center turning lane that his car shuddered. Another witness, John Patsalos, 46, who died after the crash, told police he warned Grasing at a red light to stop driving that way or he'd kill someone.

After the impact, Newcombe said, Grasing's actions were just as appalling.

"He doesn't even slow down," she said. "He's wanton. He does not care what harm he's just caused. He just sent her car tumbling, her head shattering like an eggshell, and he doesn't stop."

Grasing drove three more blocks on the sidewalk, almost hitting several people at Ralph's Ices, before he hit a phone pole.

"These are acts of someone with an inhuman state of mind," Newcombe said. "If this isn't depraved indifference to human life, I don't know what is."

She noted that witnesses said Grasing tried to leave the scene after he crashed. That shows he wasn't too drunk to form the necessary mental state for murder, she said.

"These are the words of a guilty man who knows what he's done," Newcombe said.

Newcombe dismissed Keahon's attempt to undermine the credibility of Patsalos, who had served prison time for killing a man during a gas station robbery. His criminal record didn't matter, she said.

"It doesn't mean he's incapable of witnessing a crash," she said. "The defendant's actions were so horrific, even this convicted killer was outraged by them."

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