Testimony begins in trial for two people accused in death of Fairport teacher

Posted at: 05/16/2013 2:36 AM
Updated at: 05/16/2013 7:58 PM
By: Amanda Ciavarri

She was a mother of two and a popular teacher in the Fairport Central School District. The trial for the two people charged in her death got underway Thursday.

Investigators call it a deadly game of cat and mouse. They say Mark Scerbo and Meagan Merkel were chasing each other down the road after a night of drinking last July. That's when officials say both their vehicles hit and killed Heather Boyum, who was riding her bike.

This is an unusual trial because prosecutors are trying Merkel and Scerbo simultaneously in the same courtroom with one judge and two different juries. Officials say it's to save you, the taxpayer, some money.

Opening statements in the case against Mark Scerbo wrapped up Thursday afternoon. Opening statements for Meagan Merkel were held Thursday morning.

The prosecution said Merkel and Scerbo were playing a game of cat and mouse for miles on Route 250, racing and passing each other, when they hit and killed Heather Boyum.

The prosecution said to the jury, “Merkel was not just an observer of Scerbo's reckless behavior. She was a participant. She appealed and encouraged him to continue his antics. Merkel and Scerbo acted recklessly and that reckless behaviors caused the death of Heather Boyum.”

The defense said this is not what they did, it is about what Merkel did. They said Scerbo hit Heather Boyum into Merkel's car. He says Scerbo's motorcycle was only about 40 feet away from her car and that means Merkel only had about a half a second to react.

The defense told the jury, “You are going to be upset, you should be. You are going to be angry, you should be. But not at Ms. Merkel, instead Mr. Scerbo. Ms. Merkel's involvement in this is unfortunate, but not criminal. Mr. Scerbo set in motion a series of events that no one could prevent.”

On Thursday afternoon, Mark Scerbo's jury was brought in for opening statements. The prosecution says he will prove the morning of the accident his blood alcohol level was more than twice the legal limit.

The defense says the night before, Scerbo was drinking vodka and beer with his friends and say the evidence will show they parties until the early morning hours. The defense say they will call witnesses that will testify that they told Scerbo not to drive because he was drunk.

The prosecution says, “Scerbo refused to listen to the substantial and unjustifiable risk.” They also said Scerbo's intoxication and reckless driving were the direct cause of Heather Boyum's death.

The defense says that this is a tragic event and told the jury that, “Sometimes even though tragic, it may be an accident and not every accident is criminal.”

The defense told the jury at the end of the trial they will have many questions and not many answers. All the attorneys expect this trail to goes days, even weeks. They will begin calling witnesses with both juries in the courtroom Monday morning.