Concord — March 18, 2010 — Jurors convicted Erica Blizzard of negligent homicide for failing to keep a proper lookout but were unable to reach verdicts on the more serious charge of negligent homicide by intoxication for the fatal boat crash she had in 2008 .
The jury was also unable to reach a verdict on the third charge, aggravated driving while intoxicated.
Blizzard faces 3 1/2 years in state prison on her one conviction. Prosecutors can retry her on the other two charges but did not say immediately whether they will. She will be sentenced on April 21.
The Belknap County Superior Court jury of five women and seven men returned its verdicts at 11:30 a.m. after about 9 ½ hours of deliberations over two days. Jurors heard from 23 witnesses over about six days of testimony, much of it focused on Blizzard’s alcohol consumption prior to the crash and her speed at the time of crash.
Jurors indicated on Tuesday, the first day of deliberations, that they were having trouble reaching unanimous verdicts. They asked Judge Kathleen McGuire what to do if they could not reach a verdict.
McGuire told them Tuesday to continue talking but not to agree to a verdict they could not accept. She told them if they were unable to reach verdicts, the case could be retried – but likely on the same evidence they had heard.
The jury raised a similar question this morning, just before delivering their verdict. Jurors did not deliberate Wednesday because one of them had a conflict. They resumed deliberations this morning at 9 a.m.
Blizzard, 36, of Laconia, admitted on the stand that she was piloting her 37-foot performance boat on Lake Winnipesaukee when she slammed it into Diamond Island at 2:30 a.m. on June 15, 2008. She had two best friends with her, 34-year-old Stephanie Beaudoin of Meredith, who died, and 36-year-old Nicole Shinopulos, whose jaw was fractured.
But she adamantly disputed allegations she was intoxicated at the time or that she failed to keep a proper lookout. Blizzard and other witnesses testified that she consumed 3 ½ mixed drinks with an appetizer and supper over about five hours before hitting Diamond Island.
Blizzard told jurors the crash was an accident caused by a storm that caught Blizzard and her passengers by surprise shortly. She said she used precautions by slowing down and using her depth finder to gauge where she was on the lake.
When the rainy dark night made it impossible to still see the familiar navigation lights on land and the lake, Blizzard unknowingly ventured off course. That’s when she hit Diamond Island, she said.