This week, a 3 1/2 day trial ended in Monroe County in which Thomas Senavitis of Kunkletown was acquitted of vehicular homicide in an accident which claimed the life of Senator James Rhoades.
The accident happened on Oct. 17, 2008.
Listening to the testimony during the trial, there were a number of things that came to mind, nothing to do with the jury's verdict.
Here is some advice I received during that trial:
• Don't jump to conclusions.
Entering the trial, I was convinced that Senavitis was to blame for the crash, especially because his alcohol reading was .0355, according to prosecutors. He was convicted of DUI.
The trial began with very compelling evidence against Senavitis, and I was sitting in the court pew silently screaming, "Hang him!."
I jumped to a conclusion.
Once the defense had it's say, it was obvious the cause of the accident wasn't cut-and-dry. Maybe Senavitis wasn't totally at fault. The jury thought this, too, as proven by the verdict. I still can't help but feel maybe things would be different, though, if alcohol wasn't a factor.
• Keep good records.
In any trial, lawyers love to prey on the inability to remember tiny details.
The best witnesses were those who kept notes or recorded the events.
This holds true for many things, including IRS matters, employee relations appeals, harassment by telephone complaints, etc., etc.
The details from an accident which happened 1 1/2 years ago was flawed in the memories of some of the witnesses.
Keep records of important things.
• Accounts of the same incident can vary.
A game that is often played and even used in college courses is whereby you tell a story with specific details to a certain member in a group. That person whispers the story to someone else who tells it to someone else until everyone hears it. The last person repeats the story, and everyone's surprised how details of the story change from the original version..
This was true in this court case. Although hearsay isn't allowable, it was obvious not all the people had similar recollections of the accident and as a result, some testimony conflicted.
• Accident reconstruction is not an exact science.
Two accident reconstruction experts testified on the details which resulted in the accident involving Senavitis and Rhoades. Their accounts were as opposite as Jekyll and Hyde.
One insists the accident happened in the northbound lane of Route 209, the other disagrees and says it happened in the southbound lane.
Both went as far as to say the other party was inaccurate on their findings. Both used aftermath photos of the vehicles, marks on the roadway, and other data to reach their conclusions. The jury obviously was confused by the major discrepancies.
• The most important lesson: Never forget to tell your family you love them.
Perfectly clear in the trial is that Senator Rhoades died unexpectedly. He was on his way to receive an award when his car collided with the pick-up truck of Senavitis.
Just before the accident, his wife, Mary Edith, asked how much further to Pleasant Valley High School. "We're just about there. Five minutes or so," he responded.
Senator Rhoades was a devoted family man who I'm sure would have wanted his last words to Mary Edith be, "I love you."
I'm sure he said that to her earlier in the day. He was that type of person.
When's the last time you said those three words to your family members?