Kerry Kennedy took the stand at her drugged-driving trial Wednesday and said she believes she mistakenly took a sleeping pill instead of thyroid medication the morning she swerved into a tractor-trailer on an interstate highway in 2012.
The daughter of the late Sen. Robert Kennedy testified on the third day of her trial in upstate New York, her voice quivering as she began. She was asked by a defense lawyer if she accidentally took the sleeping medication.
"That's what I now believe," Kennedy said.
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Her lawyers sought to paint a portrait of Kennedy for the jury, calling character witnesses to testify about her human rights work and how she is known for honesty and charity. At the start of her testimony, Kennedy was asked about her upbringing and said she was raised by her mother after losing her father at age 8.
"He was shot when he was running for president," she said.
The family lived in Virginia, she said, because "daddy" was the attorney general there.
In talking about the morning of the crash, Kennedy testified that she remembers driving onto the highway but nothing after that. She recalls wondering why a police officer was asking her if she was OK, because she didn't even know she had crashed.
"I was feeling dizzy, disoriented, confused and very scared by what happened," she said.
Her lawyers showed photos of the pill bottles and pills, which appeared similar, and had Kennedy describe how both medications were sitting out on her counter in preparation for an upcoming overseas trip. She testified that she sometimes takes the sleeping medication to help with jet lag.
Prosecutor Doreen Lloyd said during cross-examination that Kennedy "didn't take the time or the care" to check the label on the medication and asked if she would agree that was careless.
"I would," Kennedy said.
The prosecution has said that it will be up to the jury to decide if the pill was taken accidentally, but that Kennedy should have pulled over once she realized something was wrong.
Kennedy said Wednesday she never realized she was impaired, and would have pulled over if she had.
On Tuesday, the prosecution's toxicology expert said she doesn't know whether Kennedy would have realized she was driving erratically after taking the sleeping pill.
State trooper Bradley Molloy testified Tuesday that Kennedy passed several drug tests that he administered at the police station. The tests included having Kennedy follow the tip of a pen with her eyes, stand on one leg and touch the tip of her finger to her nose, Molloy said.
On Monday, a North Castle town police officer, Joel Thomas, said he had administered four field sobriety tests, involving eye movements, walking and turning, reciting part of the alphabet and standing on one leg. Kennedy only passed one, reciting the alphabet from J to T, he said.
Kennedy told the trooper that she had consumed some carrots and a cappuccino that morning and had slept about eight hours the night before. Molloy said Kennedy also told him she was concerned that she might have accidentally taken a sleeping pill instead of her thyroid medication.
"The defendant was not impaired by any drug," Molloy said. "I feel she may have suffered a medical condition while driving."
Molloy said Kennedy was polite and cooperative.
The final witnesses and possibly closing arguments are expected Thursday.
Kennedy is the ex-wife of Gov. Andrew Cuomo and niece of President John F. Kennedy.