YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – The defense presented its case Monday in the trial of Dr. Joseph Yurich, calling a witness to testify on how the victims of a deadly boating accident two years ago may have contributed to that crash.
The Poland doctor is accused of crashing into a bass-fishing boat on the Berlin Reservoir in May of 2015, killing Brian Cuppett, of Akron, who was inside. The crash injured Bruce Lindamood, who owned the fishing boat.
Last week, the medical examiner said Cuppett’s autopsy showed blunt force trauma to his head and neck.
Prosecutors claim Yurich was driving the boat too fast and that he had been drinking but the defense disagrees. Yurich says he hit a rock and didn’t realize it was another boat until much later.
“I was provided a lot of materials, that was quite extensive,” said boating accident reconstruction expert Miles Beam, the first witness called Monday morning.
Beam began by telling the court that there would be no way to know for sure how fast Yurich’s Bayliner power boat was moving at the time of the crash. He added that the fishing boat should have moved out of Yurich’s path.
He claimed the victims’ use of a camping lantern as a light source may have actually contributed to the crash.
“This light…I believe, would have made recognition of the bass boat by the operator of the Bayliner more difficult,” Beam said.
The defense expert said instead of illuminating the fishing boat, the lantern could have had the opposite effect.
“It could be confused with what we refer to as background lighting — lights on the shore, street lights, dock lighting.”
Yurich’s wife, Angelina Rodriguez, also took the stand Monday. She talked about the moments she learned about the accident.
Defense lawyers are calling more witnesses on Tuesday. At this point, there’s no word on whether or not Yurich will take the stand.
If convicted, he would face mandatory time in prison.