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Jury in ski-lift trial could get case Wednesday

Ashby
Ashby

RELATED VIDEO
CNN's Tony Clark reports on the last day of defense witnesses
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 ALSO:
Defense rests
 

March 2, 1999
Web posted at: 11:33 a.m. EST (1633 GMT)


In this story:

Background

RELATED STORIES, SITES icon



CAMP LEJEUNE, North Carolina (CNN) -- The court-martial of a Marine pilot accused of killing 20 people in an Italian ski lift accident ended its testimony phase Tuesday. Closing arguments are scheduled for Wednesday, with victims' relatives being flown in from Europe to attend.

The eight jurors, all Marine officers, could begin deciding Capt. Richard Ashby's fate as early as Wednesday afternoon.

Ashby was at the controls of the EA-6B Prowler when it sliced the cable of a ski gondola on February 3, 1998.

Only one person took the stand Tuesday, a rebuttal witness for the prosecution. Robert Duarte, an expert on some instruments in the jet, questioned evidence by defense attorneys who claimed the plane's speed was slower than what prosecutors contend.

An hour later, the judge, Lt. Col. Robert Nunley, sent the jury home for the day while he and attorneys for the defense and prosecution prepare jury instructions.

Ashby, 31, of Mission Viejo, California, is charged with 20 counts of involuntary manslaughter and one count each of destroying private property, destroying government property, dereliction of duty and improper flight planning.

He faces a maximum sentence of 206 years in prison if convicted of all charges.

 
 BACKGROUND:

Marine pilot Capt. Richard Ashby says he had no way of knowing a ski lift cable was strung across his flight path, because it was not marked on the military maps he was given for a low-level training mission on February 3, 1998.

Prosecutors don't dispute that, but say Ashby was still flying too fast and too low when his EA-6B Prowler dove into a valley in mid-afternoon, striking the Mount Cermis ski lift near Cavalese, Italy.

Nineteen skiers and the gondola operator plunged to their deaths.

The plane hit the cable at 370 feet (112 meters) above the ground, more than 600 feet (182 meters) lower than it was supposed to be flying.

Correspondent Tony Clark contributed to this report.


RELATED STORIES:
Pilot takes stand in ski lift deaths
February 26, 1999
Defense witnesses: Marine pilot a 'natural'
February 19, 1999
Crew member assumed 'eject position' after Marine jet hit gondola cable
February 18, 1999
Altitude guidelines at issue in Marine pilot court-martial
February 17, 1999

RELATED SITES:
Aviano Air Base Home Page
MarineLINK
Jury Research Institute: Jury and Trial Consultants
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