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Traffic Justice

Alan Dershowitz: Vance Dragging His Feet on Fatal Crash Investigation

5:06 PM EDT on July 8, 2011

Adam Lemire at the Daily News reports that Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz is losing patience with the office of Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance. Dershowitz's sister-in-law, Marilyn Dershowitz, was killed by a postal truck driver as she biked on West 29th Street last weekend. The driver left the scene and had to be tracked down using surveillance footage. He was not charged; police said he did not realize he'd struck someone.

The DA's office has blown off repeated requests to release video footage of the crash, Lemire writes:

Investigators discovered a surveillance video nearby that recorded the accident. Alan Dershowitz said he asked every day this week - including Tuesday in the hours after Marilyn's funeral - to review the tape but has been rebuffed.

"We're not trying to second-guess them, we just want to see it for ourselves," he said. "The video is there - evidence doesn't just belong to the prosecution."

Dershowitz said DA Cy Vance - under fire after the collapse of the sexual assault case against Dominique Strauss-Kahn - was gracious in a phone call but Assistant District Attorney William Beach has been giving him the run-around about the video.

"[Beach] always says "I'm too busy, I can't do it today,' and has an excuse," said Dershowitz, a Harvard Law Professor. "It's just not right. Come in five minutes early, stay five minutes late, or take five minutes out of lunch to make it happen."

The Dershowitz family's frustration would be familiar to the friends and loved ones of many traffic violence victims in New York City. Typically, local law enforcement agencies do not relinquish evidence related to traffic deaths without a fight. NYPD treats details from crash investigations as proprietary information, putting up significant barriers to access, and even withholding crash reports from victims' families for inordinate periods of time. Delay and obstruction are standard operating procedure.

Reported accounts of the crash that killed Marilyn Dershowitz are maddeningly inconsistent. In one police account reported by DNAinfo, the mail truck driver, trying to avoid a vehicle on his left, swerved right and struck Dershowitz. In witness accounts cited by the victim's husband, Nathan Dershowitz, Marilyn Dershowitz was run over from behind as the truck driver and a van driver jockeyed for position. The Dershowitz family, and the public who uses New York City streets every day, deserve to know exactly what happened.

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