Verdict expected today in manslaughter case Judge wanted time to study evidence from Lisa McLain trial

September 30, 1996|By Mike Farabaugh | Mike Farabaugh,SUN STAFF

Circuit Judge Luke K. Burns Jr. is expected to render his verdict today in the trial of a Westminster woman who is accused of manslaughter by auto in the death of a 9-year-old schoolgirl last year.

After closing arguments Thursday, Burns said he wanted to take the weekend to study 58 exhibits and his 60 pages of notes before making his ruling in the trial of Lisa Ann McLain, 21, who also is accused of homicide by vehicle while under the influence of alcohol and other traffic charges.

Ashley E. Frazier, a fourth-grader, was fatally struck in the 2500 block of Coon Club Road outside Westminster on Dec. 22.

Burns spoke briefly to the family and friends of the victim and the defendant Thursday. He praised their calm demeanor during what he termed a "highly emotional," four-day trial and thanked them for not distracting him.

McLain, a senior at Frostburg State University, appeared somber throughout the trial, bursting into sobs Thursday as she told her version of what happened about 8: 30 a.m. that day. She told the judge she saw the school bus coming to a stop but never saw the child crossing the road.

McLain acknowledged drinking four beers the night before the accident while visiting friends in Westminster. She said she stayed overnight and went to sleep about 2 a.m. so that she would not have to drive home after drinking beer.

Witnesses, including collision reconstructionists from the Maryland State Police and Barry S. Levine, the state's chief toxicologist, said that McLain was driving her Toyota Camry "at least 59 mph" and had a blood-alcohol level of 0.08 percent at the time the vehicle struck the child.

Edward M. Ulsch, the Westminster attorney representing McLain, said she was given two Breathalyzer tests by state police at the Westminster barracks nearly three hours after the accident. The results were well below 0.07 percent, the state's standard for driving under the influence.

Ulsch rebutted Levine's argument that McLain would have registered 0.08 percent if she had been tested nearly three hours earlier. He said it was merely an estimate, which Levine based on the average dissipation rate of alcohol among females.

Ulsch called McLain a "naive, social drinker," whose metabolic rate to eliminate the alcohol from her blood would have been much slower than that of a chronic drinker.

Pub Date: 9/30/96

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