Emotions run high during jury selection for alleged drunk driver in fatal Darien hit-and-run accident
Prospective jurors expressed how difficult it may be to remain fair and impartial during jury selection today in Genesee County Court for the trial of 48-year-old Jennifer L. Serrano (booking photo above).
The Irving, Chautauqua County, resident is accused of driving while intoxicated and killing 18-year-old Connor Arthur Lynskey, of Hinckley, in a fatal hit-and-run accident Aug. 11 on Sumner Road in Darien.
After a tense selection process today, 12 jurors and four alternates were chosen to be impaneled.
Defense attorney Frank LoTempio was overpowered by the voices of multiple juror candidates when he asked a group of 18 prospective jurors whether their personal emotions would interfere with their deliberations.
A few potential jurors admitted they did not feel comfortable swearing under oath to remain objective due to the highly sensitive nature of the case. Particularly, candidates were unsettled by the expert testimony that defense counsel is anticipated to bring forward. It may allege Lynskey was intoxicated, and either walking or running in the lane of traffic when he was struck.
Lynskey had attended a Jason Aldean country music concert with friends and family at Darien Lake Performing Arts Center before he was killed. After the concert, the group started on foot back to its campsite at Darien Lakes State Park campground.
The Genesee County Sheriff's Office report of the accident indicated Lynskey had decided to run ahead to catch up with a friend.
When family members and friends returned to the campsite, they realized Lynskey was missing.
Law enforcement searched the area that night, but did not find him. His body was discovered the next morning in a ditch by the side of the road.
That same night he went missing, Serrano had been stopped by a deputy and charged with driving while under the influence.
The alleged hit-and-run may have occurred approximately 30 minutes before her DWI arrest. By following leads, investigators identified her as a suspect in the fatal accident.
Some juror candidates said they could not justify drinking and driving under any circumstances, if that is in fact the cause of the fatal accident. Others said they would struggle to fulfill their roles as fact-finders due to parenthood or connections with loved ones who have been affected by drunk driving before.
Judge Charles Zambito intervened in the tense discussion by reminding prospective jurors that to prove Serrano guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, they must rely on evidence that indicates she drove while intoxicated and, as a result, operated her vehicle in a manner that caused Lynskey’s death.
Serrano is also charged with leaving the scene of personal injury accident without reporting it and aggravated unlicensed operation of her vehicle.
Reportedly, Serrano may have driven on Aug. 12 while aware that her New York driver's license was revoked by authorities, based on her refusal to submit to a chemical test.
She faces up to 14 years in prison if convicted.
Above all, Zambito urged jurors to set aside feelings while reaching a verdict, in his words, “based on laws and facts.”
Opening arguments will begin at 9:15 a.m. Tuesday in Genesee County Court.