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Closing arguments in Brendan Hoffman trial

Updated: 04/02/2014 7:33 PM
Created: 04/02/2014 7:17 PM WNYT.com
By: Steve Flamisch

TROY – A jury heard closing arguments Wednesday in the trial of a Stephentown man charged with aggravated vehicular manslaughter in the death of his close friend.

Brendan Hoffman, 22, is accused of driving the car that crashed on Cranston Rd. on June 28, 2012. Christopher Baker, 24, was thrown from the vehicle and died.

Prosecutor Michael Shanley argued that Hoffman was drunk and high, and that he left the scene of the deadly crash because he knew that he would be in trouble.

"Why would you do that if you are the passenger?" Shanley asked the jury. "If you're the passenger, you know somebody else was driving in the car. What are you running from?"

Shanley revisited the blood tests showing the presence of alcohol and marijuana in Hoffman’s system, and the report showing that Hoffman’s DNA was found on the driver’s side airbag.

He also showed a photo of the extensive damage on the car’s passenger side, arguing that Hoffman would have suffered serious injuries if he had been sitting there.

But defense attorney Peter Moschetti argued in his summation that the prosecution failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Hoffman was driving the vehicle.

"That is not the proof that you convict someone on," Moschetti told the jury. "The first thing, you go in there and you say, 'Allright, where are their experts? Where are their experts?'"

Shanley said the prosecution did not call accident reconstruction experts to explain how the crash happened. And he accused investigators of co-mingling evidence samples.

He suggested that Hoffman left the scene of the accident because he was dazed – not because he wanted to escape punishment.

Earlier in the trial, witnesses had testified that both Hoffman and Baker were drinking beer and smoking marijuana that night. But no one saw which of them climbed into the driver’s side.

Hoffman is charged with three counts apiece of aggravated vehicular homicide, vehicular manslaughter, and driving while intoxicated.

He is also charged with driving while ability impaired by drugs and alcohol, and leaving the scene of a personal injury automobile accident.

After closing arguments, Judge Debra Young read instructions to the jury. Deliberations were scheduled to begin at 9:00 a.m. Thursday.

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