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April 16, 2014

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Kerry Kennedy drugged-driving trial to open in NY

Updated Monday, Feb. 24, 2014 | 6:40 a.m.

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. (AP) — Ethel Kennedy is among the supporters at a suburban New York courthouse for the drugged-driving trial of her daughter Kerry Kennedy.

Robert F. Kennedy's widow walked slowly with an escort as she entered the building in White Plains, N.Y., on Monday.

Kerry Kennedy says a medication mix-up led to a 2012 highway collision with a tractor-trailer. Blood tests revealed a small amount of a sleeping drug.

Kennedy, the ex-wife of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, claims she accidentally took a sleeping pill instead of her daily thyroid medication.

Prosecutors say it's up to the jury to decide if the drug was taken accidentally. And even if it was, they say, Kennedy broke the law if she kept driving after feeling the drug's effects.

Efforts by the defense to get the charge dismissed failed.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

Jurors will hear Monday about Kerry Kennedy's morning routine and daily medications as they consider whether she's guilty of drugged driving.

The case against Kennedy, daughter of the late Sen. Robert Kennedy and ex-wife of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, goes to trial Monday morning in suburban White Plains.

In 2012, Kennedy was arrested after her car hit a tractor-trailer on an interstate highway near her home outside New York City. She drove to the next exit, where she failed a sobriety test, police said. Blood tests revealed a small amount of the sleeping drug zolpidem. Kennedy claims she accidentally took a sleeping pill instead of her daily thyroid medication.

Prosecutors said it's up to the jury to decide whether the drug was taken accidentally. And even if it was, they said, Kennedy broke the law if she kept driving after feeling the drug's effects.

It's rare for such a minor charge to be heard in state Supreme Court, but Kennedy's lawyers successfully argued that the Town Court in Armonk, which had jurisdiction, was too small and poorly equipped for a high-profile trial.

A town judge and a state judge both refused defense efforts to get the charge dismissed, despite warm letters from family and friends extolling Kennedy's work in human rights around the world.

Kennedy, 54, of Bedford, won permission from Justice Robert Neary to miss last week's jury selection because she was on a human rights trip to Western Sahara.

Because the alleged offense is a misdemeanor, there are just six jurors. The trial is expected to last about a week.

Kennedy's brother, Douglas Kennedy, took another minor criminal case to trial in 2012. He was acquitted in a non-jury case of child endangerment and harassment charges stemming from a scuffle in a hospital maternity ward in Mount Kisco.