It only took a New York jury a little over an hour to acquit Kerry Kennedy of the driving while under the influence of medication charge. Her defense was that she accidentally took a sleeping pill by mistake. This type of defense is not permitted in Illinois.
Kennedy testified this week that she grabbed the wrong prescription bottle from her kitchen counter that morning and swallowed 10 milligrams of zolpidem, a sleep aid also known by the brand name Ambien. Neither she nor prosecutors disputed the fact that she drove erratically after taking the medication and sideswiped a tractor-trailer in Westchester County before she was found, slumped over her steering wheel, her car stalled.
“I now know thanks to the tox lab that I must have taken the sleeping medication by mistake,” said Kennedy, looking at the jury as she testified.
Kennedy said she made cappuccino, had some carrots, prepared bags for the gym and office and had no problem leaving her apartment and getting to her vehicle the morning of the accident.
Her memory from that morning ends just before she entered the highway, Kennedy said. The next thing she recalls is a knock on the window of her SUV, and a man she thought was a police officer asking if she was OK.
“I was confused by that because I thought I was fine,” she said on the stand.
During a contentious cross examination, Kennedy insisted that she would not have stayed behind the wheel if she’d felt the effects of the medication.
“If I’d realized I was impaired, I would have pulled over,” she told prosecutor Doreen Lloyd, and also said she doesn’t know what the side effects of zolpidem might feel like.
“You’ve taken this pill for 10 years and you can’t tell me whether or not it makes you feel tired after you take it?” Lloyd asked.
“I guess I don’t really think about how I’m feeling when I take it,” Kennedy replied. “I take it, and then I’m asleep.”