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Jurors ‘deadlocked’ on some charges in Long Island fatal crash case

Joseph Beer, 19, of Queens, is escorted into a courtroom at the Nassau County Court as jurors deliberate in his vehicular homicide trial.
Photo Credit: Mike Balsamo

Jurors deliberating in the vehicular homicide trial of a 19-year-old Queens teen told a Nassau County judge Thursday they were “deadlocked” and needed advice on how to proceed.

Joseph Beer faces up to 25 years in prison if convicted of aggravated vehicular homicide, manslaughter, reckless driving, reckless endangerment and other charges in connection with a fatal October 2012 crash. Beer’s four passengers – 18-year-olds Darian Ramnaraine, Peter Kanhai and Chris Khan and 17-year-old Neal Rajapa – were all killed when his 2012 Subaru Impreza was ripped in half when he lost control of the car and smashed into a tree.

Prosecutors allege Beer was high on marijuana and speeding at more than 110 mph before the crash along the Southern State Parkway in Malverne. Beer’s defense lawyer doesn’t dispute his client was smoking marijuana the day of the crash, but has presented evidence he says shows Beer – who he called a “chronic marijuana user” – could have ingested weed and not been impaired. He also contends the Southern State Parkway, near the crash site, is “dangerous.”

“We the jury have reviewed the evidence and are deadlocked on some of the charges,” the 12-member panel wrote in a note Thursday afternoon to Nassau County Court Judge David Sullivan. “There is no movement one way or another.” The jurors said they reached a partial verdict and wanted the judge’s advice on how to move forward. It was not clear which of the 14 charges the jury has already decided.

Sullivan said their problem was “not uncommon” and instructed them to continue deliberating. “It is not uncommon for a jury to believe they will not be able to reach a unanimous verdict,” the judge said. He encouraged them to “make every effort to consistent with your conscience.” He also told them that if a review of the evidence changes their mind, they shouldn’t be “stubborn” because of “pride.”

About an hour later, the jurors returned with another note asking for to review numerous exhibits in evidence and seeking guidance from the judge as to the charges and the law. Among that was a request that the judge read back the legal definition of impairment and that he repeat his instructions on the top charge – aggravated vehicular manslaughter – including the elements of the crime and legal definitions. They also requested to review a videotape in evidence and several other exhibits.

Beer’s defense lawyer, Todd Greenberg, said it has “very, very tense” for both him and his client as they wait for the jury to reach a verdict. Jurors began their deliberations Tuesday morning. They had previously sent a note to the judge – on Wednesday – saying they were “at an impasse,” but continued deliberations afterwards at the judge’s urging.

“We do know that there has been a decision on some of the charges,” Greenberg said. He also said his client “understand his conduct was wrong” and is now hoping that the jury “is going to put it into perspective.” The district attorney’s office had no comment.

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