MINEOLA, N.Y. (AP) — A teenager "tempted fate" by getting high on marijuana and driving more than 100 mph before winding up a crash that tore his car in half and killed four of his friends, a prosecutor said Monday at the closing arguments of his trial.
But the then-17-year-old driver's defense attorney said that the prosecution hadn't proved he was impaired and that the stretch of road where the crash took place was a dangerous one without adequate warning signs.
The driver, Joseph Beer, of New York City, is on trial for charges including aggravated vehicular homicide, vehicular manslaughter, reckless endangerment and driving while intoxicated by drugs. He's now 19 years old.
Assistant District Attorney Michael Bushwack said, "Speed and weed — that's what caused this crash."
"The faster he drove, the greater the risk his friends would die," Bushwack said. "This defendant caused this to happen. He tempted fate and made this happen."
Beer lost control of his car in West Hempstead and crashed into trees. The crash killed three 18-year-olds and a 17-year-old, all from Queens, where they had attended high school with him. He suffered minor injuries.
Beer's attorney Todd Greenberg told jurors, "There is absolutely no evidence of impairment by marijuana in this case."
Greenberg said his client doesn't deny smoking marijuana the day of the October 2012 crash but said there is a discrepancy about when he smoked it. An ambulance medical technician who responded to the scene testified that Beer told him he smoked $20 worth of marijuana immediately before driving. His lawyer said that's not the case and that Beer was smoking weed before he left his house and was not impaired at the time of the crash.
"Smoking is not the issue; it's impairment that's the issue," he said. "The law does not say ingestion is a crime. The law says impairment is a crime."
Greenberg also said that the area of the Southern State Parkway where the crash took place is dangerous because of "an incline, a blind spot and then a curve" and doesn't have warning signs in the area.
The jury is expected to start deliberations on Tuesday. Beer, if convicted of all charges, could face up to 25 years in prison.