Ffriend to know fate September 5
Leighton Levy, Gleaner Writer
The verdict in the case against Jamaican basketball player Kimani Ffriend will be handed down on September 5. He faces between two and 12 years in jail if found guilty of vehicular manslaughter.
The six feet eleven inches centre, who last played for Jamaica in June 2012, was involved in a drunk-driving accident on the morning of November 3 that year that claimed the life of 30-year-old Nevena Dragutinovic.
Ffriend, who was in Serbia at the time hoping to sign a long-term professional basketball contract and had been out drinking with friends, was driving along a roadway in Belgrade when Dragutinovic suddenly alighted from a taxi that had stopped in the middle of the road. She was struck by the car and thrown into the air. Her blood alcohol level was extremely high. She had been partying with her boyfriend and her sister.
As the case that has been in court for two years begins to wind down, Ffriend's lawyers - Tintor Jugoslav and Branislav Manic - were yesterday each allowed an hour to make their closing arguments during which they urged the judge not to allow the fact that Ffriend is a foreigner to influence her decision. Both were reportedly pleased with their presentations. The attorneys also delivered written, more detailed arguments to the judge.
Not enough time
Ffriend also addressed the court saying that he was in agreement with his lawyers about not having enough time to present their facts with evidence for his defence and how the case had changed his life forever.
He also told the court that he was remorseful over what had happened on November 3, 2012 and for the loss of Nevena's life and has sent his prayers to her family. The beleaguered Jamaican, who has been under house arrest for more than a year after spending more than 10 months in prison, also implored the judge to be fair in her judgement and without bias, see the facts and evidence presented to her make the right decision.
There has been public pressure to find Ffriend guilty, especially considering that Dragutinovic's boyfriend is a popular singer in that country. A song he wrote as an ode to his deceased girlfriend became an instant hit in Serbia and served to further raise the profile of the case. Ffriend was also a public figure of sorts as he had played professional basketball in that country prior to the accident.
In the Serbian Court system, whatever the decision, an appellate court comprised of a panel of three experienced judges, usually reviews the decisions made in court and will 'correct' any mistakes made by the presiding judge. Ffriend said his lawyer is preparing for that eventuality.
Should he be exonerated, Ffriend said he would like to play basketball again. "I still have some life in my legs," he said.