STATE VS. JENNIFER LEE LOCASCIO
Defendant was convicted of vehicular manslaughter after a jury trial. The indictment stemmed from a one-car accident in which defendant's boyfriend was killed after the car veered off the road and struck a tree. The pivotal issue at trial was whether, as the State contended, defendant was the driver or whether, as the defense and its expert contended, the boyfriend was the driver.
The State presented expert testimony from the county medical examiner opining that defendant was the driver. During the course of his testimony, the medical examiner rendered opinions, over defendant's objection, about the probable movements of the occupants within the car as it decelerated and crashed, including an analysis of how the passenger's body allegedly "cushioned" the driver's body during the accident.
We reverse defendant's conviction and order a new trial because the testimony of the medical examiner, who the State concedes is not qualified as an expert in biomechanics or accident reconstruction, prejudicially went beyond the scope of his expertise on a crucial disputed issue. The examiner's testimony should have been confined to the aspects of his expertise as a pathologist concerning the nature and causes of bodily injury, and should not have delved into the biomechanical forces and movements within the automobile. 05-04-12