On friday February 28, Kerry Kennedy was found ‘Not Guilty’, after an hour of deliberation. Kennedy was arrested on July 13, 2012, after side-swiping a tractor trailer in Westchester NY, then left the scene of the accident while driving on a flat tire. She was found by authorities at an exit slumped over her steering wheel. Kennedy claimed she did not recall the accident due to a mistaken dose of the sleeping-aid Ambien.
Kerry Kennedy claimed she mixed up her thyroid medication with an Ambien pill which are both about the same size. While following her daily routine, Kerry was preparing for an upcoming trip and had put aside both her sleeping pill and thyroid medicine. She placed both medications in separate plastic bags and laid them on her dresser. She explained to the six person jury that she must have taken the sleep aid rather than her thyroid medication and did not feel any side effects nor did she remember any thing after leaving her house or winding up slumped over her driving wheel at the bottom of an exit off the highway.
The prosecutor questioned Kerry Kennedy’s lack of knowledge on the pill since she used the medication for the last ten years. She was also questioned about not feeling side effects before the accident. According to the prosecutors research, Ambien takes about fifteen minutes to take effect which should have given her plenty of time to react and pull off the road.
There has been a history of court cases due to the side effects caused by Ambien. The drug has been known to cause people to ‘sleep eat’. People have woken up in the morning with food in their bed or they find a mess in their kitchen’s, and sometimes finding their ovens and stoves still on. The drug-induced sleep eaters would not recall any of the bizarre behavior. Sleep driving is also a big problem. Kerry Kennedy’s own cousin, Congressman Patrick Kennedy crashed his car into a barrier in the middle of the night. He told the police officers on the scene that he was ‘late for a vote’. Patrick Kennedy had taken the sleeping aid along with an anti-nausea drug. Shortly after that, a class action suit was placed against the French drug company. The FDA enforced the drug company to change the information on the labels. The new labels states that Ambien can cause sleep-eating, engage in sex, or sleep driving without recalling their actions.
Ambien was found in Kennedy’s bloodstream after tests were done on the day of the accident. Her clean police record, interests in human rights, and healthy living, could have been a big factor in the jury’s decision in favor of a ‘Not Guilty’ verdict in the Ambien defense. Her family name and public persona may have been why a misdemeanor case ended in front of a jury which is unusual for most dui cases. After the ‘Not Guilty’ verdict was announced by the jury, a much relieved Kennedy left the courthouse with her team of lawyers and family members by her side.
by Christina Thompson