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Drinking and Driving Ruins the Life of Former NY Yankee

Posted in Drunk Driving

Even sports fans that don’t normally follow “regular” news are keeping watch on a trial that just opened in Broward County, Florida. Jury selection has begun in the DUI manslaughter case against former New York Yankee Jim Leyritz.

Leyriz, aged forty-six, has been charged with DUI, running a red light, and colliding with another car in connection with the 2007 auto accident that left a thirty-year-old mother of two dead. He had plead not guilty to the charges.

On the evening of December 27, 2007, Leyritz and friends were in downtown Ft. Lauderdale celebrating his birthday. In the early hours of the next morning, around 3am, Leyritz was driving northbound in his Ford Expedition when he collided with an SUV driven by Fredia Ann Veitch. Veitch, who was on her way home from her job at an area steak house, was thrown from her vehicle (an indication that she wasn’t wearing a seat belt) and pronounced dead at the scene. Leyritz rigorously denies reports that he ran a red light and, thus, caused the accident. A witness disputes Leyritz’s story.

Although he admits to having consumed alcohol at his party, Leyritz also denies being drunk at the time of the crash. Blood alcohol testing conducted three hours after the incident showed that his blood alcohol content (BAC) was still .14, almost twice the legal limit for driving a car. Veitch’s BAC registered even higher at .18. Leyritz blames the result on faulty testing.

As with any high-profile case, jury selection is likely to be a drawn-out, painful affair with both sides attempting to limit the damage that three years of access to news reports can do to a prospective juror’s ability to be objective. In this case, the judge started out with seventy-five prospects and questioned them extensively about their knowledge of and thoughts about the case. The jurors were also made to complete the defense’s forty-question survey regarding family history, education, employment, religion, military, familiarity with police, criminal and civil proceedings, drug or alcohol treatment and traffic incidents. Those who make the first cut will then be questioned about their television viewing habits, as well as their knowledge of the forty plus witnesses who could be called to testify in the case.

In a surprising move, the judge in the case has barred any evidence that would show Ms. Veitch as being more drunk than Leyriz, that she was not wearing a seat belt, or that she was receiving text messages at the time of the crash. When the judge issued his decision excluding the evidence back in September, the defense felt it important enough to warrant an immediate appeal; an appeals court upheld the trial judge’s ruling.

Although the case has been followed extensively throughout the United States, a final determination as to whether the proceedings will be televised has not yet been made. If convicted, Leyritz could face up to fifteen years in prison. He has three children and played major league ball for eleven years.

Whatever the outcome of the criminal trial, Leyritz’s life is certainly in shambles. Leyritz and his insurance company have already settled a wrongful death suit filed by Veitch’s family. Leyritz will pay approximately $100,000; his carrier will kick in $250,000. Given the fact that Leyritz will be permitted to pay the money in $1000 installments over 100 months, one may wonder what happened to the $11 million he made during his MLB career. In fact, Leyritz has been forced to seek aid from the Baseball Assistance Team (BAT) charity for troubled players in order to support himself and his three sons.

Records unearthed in the aftermath of the collision revealed that, after retiring, Leyritz burned through obscene amounts of money purchasing expensive alcohol and partying at exclusive nightclubs in New York and Florida. By 2003, the ballplayer’s net worth was just $600,000.

Since the tragedy Leyritz has been arrested twice for drinking alcohol in violation of the terms of his bail, as well as for domestic assault on his ex-wife. In May 2009, Leyritz was committed to a psychiatric ward and he is no longer sought after on the motivational speaking circuit.