A Palm Beach County jury on Tuesday acquitted a driver in a crash that instantly killed a college soccer player from north Broward over four years ago.
The panel decided Kevin Brown, 29, is not guilty of vehicular homicide in the death of Eric Tarmey, 23, ending a retrial centered around a dispute over speed calculations. The six jurors reached the verdict in less than two hours of deliberations.
Over the three-day trial, prosecutors argued Brown was speeding 90 mph recklessly on Military Trail near West Palm Beach before slamming into the passenger side of Tarmey’s car with explosive force. That’s twice the posted 45 mph speed limit.
“This was not an accident in no way, shape or form,” Assistant State Attorney Amy Berkman said in her final words to the jury. “This was a violent crash. This was a devastation.”
But the defense contended investigators severely miscalculated Brown’s speed during a reconstruction of the accident, relying on a scientifically unreliable method.
“We don’t convict on junk science,” Brown’s attorney, Greg Rosenfeld, said in his closing arguments, slamming the use of a measurement tool called a drag sled.
Brown’s actual speed was between 50 and 60 mph, he said.
“Not every tragedy is a crime,” Rosenfeld said. “This tragedy is absolutely not a vehicular homicide. It was a bad accident.”
It happened on the night of Feb. 3, 2017. Brown was heading home from work, driving his 2010 Nissan Maxima northbound on Military. Tarmey, from Lighthouse Point, was in the southbound lanes in his 2010 Volkswagen GTI. He was making a left turn to head east in the entrance of Keiser University, where he studied sports management and was on his way to visit friends.
Prosecutors Berkman and Storm Tropea said Brown zoomed around a car in front of him, moving at 120 feet per second before slamming into Tarmey at 9:39 p.m. Tropea said the damage made it appear Tarmey’s car had been “dropped from a plane.”
Brown testified that he hit the brakes but couldn’t avoid the car turning in front of him. He suffered leg and head injuries from the T-bone crash.
“We’re really dealing with a speeding case here,” Rosenfeld argued, contending the prosecution could not prove it was reckless driving.
The defense heavily criticized the investigation, which relied on a drag sled, a device that resembles a tire cut in half with weights. It’s pulled across a road to obtain the amount of friction existing between a moving vehicle and the ground.
Engineering formulas are then used to come up with the speed of a car that was in a crash.
Rosenfeld urged the jury to reject the official finding about Brown’s speed, while the prosecutors said the calculation was based on a long-used method.
There are other ways that investigators find out speed on impact. For one, they can tap into a car’s computer system, and check a “black box” similar in nature to those on airplanes. But the box in Brown’s Maxima apparently was destroyed.
Tarmey is remembered fondly by friends and family as a young man with great potential. Cardinal Gibbons High in Fort Lauderdale has established a $3,000 scholarship to honor the memory of the student who graduated in the class of 2011.
“Convicting Kevin Brown of a crime he didn’t commit isn’t going to bring Eric Tarmey back,” Rosenfeld said.