Michael Opsincs: Jury decides guilty on all counts in vehicular homicide trial

Sentencing set for Opsincs Aug 16th

A Martin County jury on Thursday morning found Michael Opsincs guilty on all counts in the 2010 vehicular homicide of 11-year-old Brianna Cooper.

Some family members on both sides of the case wept when the verdict was read.

Judge William Roby set sentencing for Opsincs, 29, at 1:30 p.m. Aug. 16.

Opsincs family left the courtroom immediately after the verdict was read. Brianna's family declined to comment.

Jurors deliberated for about an hour Wednesday evening before deciding to resume at 9 a.m. Thursday.

Opsincs was on trial in Circuit Court in Martin County for vehicular homicide and eight other charges. The charges stem from the Sept. 29, 2010, crash at Kanner Highway and Pomeroy Street that killed Brianna and injured her father, Todd, two of her brothers and another couple, whose car was hit by the back half of Brianna's car and sent flying by the force of the crash.

He faces a 15-year prison term if convicted of vehicular homicide, and a total of about 27 years if convicted on all charges and the sentences run consecutively.

In testimony earlier in the day, each side presented a traffic reconstruction expert.

William Wright, the expert for the prosecution, said his analysis of the crash scene indicated Opsincs's car was going 69 mph at impact with Cooper's car.

The defense expert, Rick Swope, said he thought the speed was 54 mph.

In their closing arguments to the jury of four men and two women late Wednesday afternoon, Assistant State Attorney Nita Denton and Assistant Public Defender Jordan Showe debated the meaning of "willful," a crucial element for the jury to determine whether Opsincs is guilty.

Denton also reminded the jury that sympathy should not be a factor in their decision. "We don't believe we need sympathy in this case because the facts are on our side," she said.

Denton said prosecutors "don't have to prove intent to harm, only that he operated the vehicle in a reckless manner."

She said of Opsincs, "You're speeding, it's raining and you're not paying attention — that's a disaster waiting to happen."

Showe said, "It's not a question of who caused the accident, but whether Mr. Opsincs was acting consciously and intentionally indifferent when he ran the red light."

Showe conceded that Opsincs caused the crash when he ran a red light on eastbound Kanner, striking the Cooper's car, which was making a left turn onto westbound Kanner from the center lane on Pomeroy.

He conceded Opsincs was speeding, though he suggested that on a four-lane, limited-access divided highway, 10 to 15 miles an hour over the limit is reasonable.

Showe countered Denton's argument by saying that Opsincs became distracted after seeing the light was green for traffic on Kanner.

"He didn't brake and he didn't swerve or see the car he hit," Showe said. "It was an accident and if he was distracted he's not guilty."

In Denton's rebuttal, she told the jury, "The fact is he chose to get in that car and drive like a bat out of hell."
 

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