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fatal darien hit-and-run accident

July 1, 2019 - 8:22pm

District Attorney Lawrence Friedman called two rebuttal witnesses this afternoon, who are both accident reconstructionists, to provide insight about the precise location of 18-year-old Connor Lynskey when he was struck by alleged drunk driver Jennifer Serrano last August in Darien.

Expert James Orr testified in order to explain his findings based on police photographs and investigation measurements from the accident scene. Orr’s rationale for the absence of tire marks in the gravel along the edge of Sumner Road is that gravel will not be disturbed unless sudden maneuvering or braking occurs.

A photograph of what is purported to be Lynskey’s footprint was revisited numerous times today in court. The image, according to Orr, depicts a heel print in the gravel and the top of the foot pivoting out of the frame. Orr said this pivot represents Lynskey’s right foot as the left side of his body rotates in the direction of the vehicle upon impact. Orr said no debris of any kind could make that type of mark. 

"Using the debris field that was found primarily on the shoulder, gravel and grass, jurors will determine whether Lynskey was positioned in the traffic lane or if Serrano’s vehicle left the roadway.

Orr said that debris in accident scene photos may indicate that broken pieces from the vehicle's exterior made contact with Lynskey’s body at the point of impact.

Defense attorney Frank LoTempio asked Orr how he could know the exact collision location if he had relied on photos taken by Genesee County Sheriff's Office Investigator Chris Parker, who admitted he could not recall the precise location of gravel disturbance. Orr remained confident in his assertion that Lynskey was located on the shoulder at the time of impact. 

Jon Northrup, the second expert who testified today, reviewed police measurements and photos, and calculated pedestrian formulas when conducting his investigation. Northrup extended the angle of Lynskey’s slide path back to the shoulder and edge of the road to estimate Lynskey’s position.

Northrup testified that Lynksey flew 12 feet in the air upon collision and slid 18 feet through vegetation, a total distance of 30 feet from strike to resting place. Northrup predicts that Serrano’s vehicle was driving on the shoulder approximately 2.5 feet off the edge of the road.

Northrup said Lynskey’s footprint and contact with the vehicle’s windshield are not consistent with Lynskey tripping into the path of Serrano’s Jeep. He said that Lynskey was upright when he was struck.

Northrup disagreed with Thomas C. Onions, an accident reconstructionist called by defense counsel, about his findings related to vehicle speed and visibility. Northrup claims Serrano's vehicle was traveling faster than 37.5 miles per hour and its headlight visibility was over 150 feet.

Orr and Northrup agreed that photo evidence from the accident scene that was collected by investigators could have been more conclusive had they made better photographs of the alleged footprint and debris field. They said accident reconstruction experts are trained to observe evidence that officers may not look for. 

Orr and Northrup each conceded there is no way to determine the precise vehicle speed or location of Lynskey upon impact because pedestrian calculations are only accurate for full-body hits, not partial strikes. 

Serrano is facing charges of vehicular manslaughter, leaving the scene of an accident without reporting it, driving while intoxicated and aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle. 

Jurors will be informed of the legal specifications of each of the four counts tomorrow at 9 a.m. in Genesee County Court.

July 1, 2019 - 4:02pm

District Attorney Lawrence Friedman and defense attorney Frank LoTempio faced off during oral arguments this morning over the admission of rebuttal witness testimony during the trial of alleged drunk driver Jennifer Serrano. 

Friedman intends to call accident reconstructionists James Orr and Jon Northrup to testify to their perspectives of the location of a deadly impact between Serrano’s vehicle and 18-year-old pedestrian Connor Lynskey. Serrano and Lynskey were both traveling along Sumner Road after a concert at Darien Lake Performing Arts Center last August at the time of the collision.

Friedman argued that evidence introduced earlier in the trial will yield different interpretations from those offered by witnesses such as Sgt. Jason Saile and Thomas C. Onions, an accident reconstruction expert.

The three main topics of debate are the speed of Serrano’s vehicle, the visibility on Sumner Road, and the location of vehicle-pedestrian impact. The rebuttal witnesses are also expected to weigh in on a photograph of what is purported to be Lynksey’s footprint in the gravel shoulder of the road.

LoTempio said that the district attorney failed to present Orr and Northrup as witnesses in a timely manner when he filed a motion for demand of discovery months ago. The discovery demand allows the People and the defendant to get an idea of the evidence that will be used against them during the trial.

LoTempio also claimed that the People’s rebuttal witnesses would be prejudicial to Serrano because defense expert Onions may not have the opportunity to respond to the alternate interpretations since he is currently out of the area.

During banter between Friedman and LoTempio, LoTempio let out an incredulous laugh when Friedman countered his arguments about mistrial, discovery demand and rebuttal witnesses. 

LoTempio said that the location of the impact is an element of causation that jurors should consider in their deliberations since Serrano is charged with vehicular manslaughter, leaving the scene of an accident without reporting it, driving while intoxicated and aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle. 

Judge Charles Zambito said that knowing the exact location of Lynskey at the time he was struck is not necessary for the jury to reach its verdict. After a recess, Zambito rendered the decision that the defense’s motion for a mistrial is denied and that it will be appropriate for the People to rebut with expert testimony from Orr and Northrup. 

The fifth day of the Serrano trial continues this afternoon in Genesee County Court.

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