Originally created 08/22/06

Professor to testify



The medical college professor accused of vehicular homicide in the 2003 death of a high school senior is expected to testify in his defense today.

The Richmond County Superior Court trial of Dr. Mohammad A. Behzadian, 60, began Monday.

Dr. Behzadian is charged with homicide in the first degree, a felony, and four misdemeanor traffic offenses, including driving under the influence.

Just after 10 p.m. on Feb. 28, 2003, Dr. Behzadian was involved in a car crash on River Watch Parkway that caused the death of 18-year-old Brandon Layton.

Dr. Behzadian's attorney, Michael C. Garrett, told the jury in his opening statement that Dr. Behzadian accidentally drove onto the wrong side of the divided highway at a dark and confusing intersection.

Larry Williams testified that he became concerned about Dr. Behzadian's driving long before the doctor turned onto the wrong side of River Watch.

Mr. Williams testified that he was trailing about 100 yards behind Dr. Behzadian on Stevens Creek Road when he saw the doctor's white Toyota cross the center line into the opposite lane of traffic. He testified that he was calling 911 on his cell phone to report the erratic driving when he saw Dr. Behzadian's car turn into the wrong lane of River Watch.

Three other witnesses testified that they had to pull off the eastbound lanes of River Watch to avoid crashing into Dr. Behzadian at various points between Furys Ferry and Steven Creek roads.

The state's deputy chief medical examiner, Dr. Mark Koponen, testified that Mr. Layton died of massive injuries. His blood was free of alcohol or drugs. He was wearing a work uniform when killed.

Dr. Behzadian's initial blood and urine tests revealed no alcohol or illegal drugs, testified Jill Lariscy, of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation crime laboratory. Subsequent testing revealed a blood-alcohol level of no more than .015 and the presence of prescription medication in his urine, however. Both samples were taken more than an hour after the crash.

In Georgia, a driver must have a blood-alcohol level of 0.08 to be presumed intoxicated.

District Attorney Danny Craig said a driver who causes a fatal accident can be guilty of felony vehicular homicide because he was driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or because he was driving recklessly.

Reach Sandy Hodson at (706) 823-3226 or sandy.hodson@augustachronicle.com.

WHAT'S NEXT:

Testimony continues today. Dr. Mohammad A. Behzadian is expected to testify in his defense. He is charged with homicide in the first degree in the 2003 traffic death of Brandon Layton, 18.