MIAMI (CBSMiami) — The defense began its case Wednesday in the trial of a former Miami Beach police officer charged with four felonies after he was involved in an ATV crash on South Beach which seriously injured two people.
The defense attempted to show that Kuilan was not intoxicated when he ran over the victims. Defense attorney Evan Hoffman appeared to fumble as he went on the offense against the State’s case.
He called Dr. Lisa Reidy, director of the University of Miami’s toxicology lab, who confirmed that tests on the officers blood conducted two years after the accident showed a much lower blood alcohol level than when he was tested the morning of the crash. Reidy seemed to shoot down the defense’s efforts, explaining that alcohol deteriorates over time when stored in a lab, and the lower blood level reading would be normal.
The defense also called Miami Beach fire-rescue paramedic Jose Flores, who drew the officers blood the morning of the accident. Flores testified that he smelled no alcohol on Kuilan and did not notice any type of impairment. On cross examination, however, the firefighter said he was focused on taking the blood draw, and not looking for signs that the officer might have been intoxicated.
Earlier the defense asked the judge to toss the case, saying the state had not proved all the elements of reckless and drunk driving causing great bodily harm. Judge Marisa Tinkler Mendez did not grant the motion.
Kuilan will not take the stand during the trial which is now recessed until Monday for final defense witnesses.
The accident happened in the early morning hours of July 4th, 2011. Kuilan and another officer, who were both on duty, were allegedly drinking at a bachelorette party at the Clevelander Hotel.
Kuilan then took the 28-year bride-to-be Adalee Martin for a joyride on a police ATV on the beach.
Martin has 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.
While riding at a high rate of speed along the beach, Kuilan struck two people out for a walk.
Janet Hooker, a friend of victims Kitzie Nicanor and Luis Almonte, testified 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.
Miami Beach police officer David Price, who was the first to arrive at the scene of the ATV crash, testified Wednesday that he noticed no signs of impairment on Kuilan. Price said, however, that he thought he was simply responding to an accident involving a police officer and “was not in the mindset” to suspect the on-duty officer might be impaired or to look for signs of intoxication.
Ofc. Price said knowing what he knows now, he would conclude there were signs of impairment on Kuilan that morning, including his incomplete radio transmissions regarding the accident, the inaccurate number of victims Kuilan reported, and the fact that Killian had crashed a bachelorette party and was taking the bride to be on his ATV, designed to carry only one person.
Nicanor,one of the victims, testified on Tuesday 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 scar 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.”
Almonte told the jury because of the accident he now has titanium rods in one of his legs.
Miami Beach police Sergeant Jerome Berrian, 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 Kuilan had been drinking. He said a civilian would have been asked to take a field sobriety test at the crash scene. Kuilan was not.
He couldn’t explain why no test was asked of Kuilan.
“I don’t have an answer for you,” Berrian told prosecutor David Gilbert.
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.
Traffic homicide investigator Kerry Humphrey showed jurors photos of the heavily damaged police ATV on Tuesday. Prosecutors believe the photos help prove Kuilan was traveling at a high rate of speed, bolstering their charge that he was driving recklessly.
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.
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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