MIAMI (CBSMiami) — Prosecutors have wrapped up their case in the trial of a former Miami Beach police officer charged with four felonies after he was involved in an ATV crash on the beach which seriously injured two people.
Derick Kuilan’s defense will get their turn on Wednesday to convince the jury their client was not impaired the night he struck two people on a police ATV on South Beach. Kuilan’s attorney has not said if he plans to put the former officer on the stand but they are expected to present an expert to challenge the blood alcohol evidence.
Testimony continued Tuesday, June 3rd with the female victim Kitzie Nicanor, as the state’s last witness. Nicanor, who was a visiting from Seattle, testified that the last thing she remembers was going to the beach with her friends. She has no recollection of the accident, remembering only waking up afterwards in the hospital.
“I was in a lot of pain,” Nicanor told jurors. “My leg was fractured and they took out my spleen.” Nicanor said she has a surgical star that runs from her sternum to her pelvis. Her legs are not the same now.
“One is shorter than the other now. If I walk more than I should it hurts,” she said.
She suffered a brain injury that has left her “emotional and forgetful.”
Earlier, a Miami Beach Police sergeant, who saw a photograph of Kuilan partying at the bridal party before the crash, and later a face shot taken at the police station, testified that he believed the officer had been drinking. He said a civilian would have been asked to take a field sobriety test at the crash scene.
He couldn’t explain why no test was asked of Kuilan.
“I don’t have an answer for you,” Sgt. Jerome Berrian told prosecutor David Gilbert.
On the night of July 4th, 2011, Kuilan and another officer, who were both on duty, were allegedly drinking at a bachelorette party at the Clevelander Hotel.
A toxicologist testified Kuilan’s blood alcohol was .088 five hours after the collision. A second toxicologist for the state estimated that at the time of the crash Kuilan, who is 6’1″ and weighs approximately 200 pounds, had a blood alcohol of .155, nearly twice the legal limit.
Maid of honor, Camille Hippensteel, testified Monday that she thought the officers, buffed out in form-fitting uniforms, could have been sent as party favors for the bridal party.
“Their uniforms were so tight that they almost looked like strippers,” Hippensteel said.
She testified that it did not occur to her that Kuilan might be impaired, but she didn’t think to look for any sign of impairment.
Keeley said Kuilan then took the 28-year bride-to-be Adalee Martin for for a joyride on a police ATV. Martin testified that she would not have gotten on the ATV if she suspected Kuilan had been drinking.
“I trusted him because he was a police officer, so I felt safe,” said Martin.
“They are flying down the sand and all of the sudden it’s like he hit a wall,” said Keeley.
That “wall” turned out to be Almonte and Nicanor who were out for a walk on the beach, according to authorities.
Janet Hooker, a friend of victims Nicanor and Luis Almonte, testified on Tuesday that Kuilan raced by her going very fast and she heard a “boom” as his SUV hit her friends. She said Kuilan first directed his attention to his ATV, not the seriously injured victims.
“He was turning the ATV over because it had flipped over,” she said.
Kuilan radioed for help but allegedly never mentioned the accident.
Almonte’s leg was broken. During his time on the stand he told the jury because of the accident he now has titanium rods in one of his legs.
Traffic homicide investigator Kerry Humphrey showed jurors photos of the heavily damaged police ATV. Prosecutors believe the photos help prove Kuilan was traveling at a high rate of speed, bolstering their charge that he was driving recklessly.
Robert Azicri, the Miami Beach police officer who took Kuilan to the police station after the crash, said he was allowed to clean up in the locker room.
Kuilan’s defense attorney, Evan Hoffman, admitted during his opening statement that the ATV joyride was “probably not the smartest thing.”
“We agree that there were actions made that were not the best judgement,” said Hoffman.
Hoffman said Kuilan’s actions and the accident were a civil matter and did not belong in a criminal court. He also plans to challenge the results of the DUI test. Hoffman said no one will testify at the trial that they ever saw Kuilan or his partner actually drinking at the bachlorette party.
Kuilan is charged with two counts of driving under the influence and causing serious bodily harm, and two counts of reckless driving. He faces a maximum prison sentence of ten years.
Judge Marisa Tinkler Mendez says she expects the case to go to the jury on Monday.
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