WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. -- There were hugs, smiles and applause among Kerry Kennedy's family and friends following her acquittal in White Plains Friday morning.
After a week-long trial, the six-person jury deliberated for about 40 minutes before delivering a "not guilty" verdict for the charge of driving while ability impaired by drugs.
The charges stemmed from Kennedy's July 2012 arrest in North Castle, when she hit a tractor-trailer and a guardrail while driving on Ambien. Kennedy, who is the daughter of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, the niece of John F. Kennedy and the ex-wife of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, pleaded not guilty to the charge, saying that she accidentally took the pill instead of her thyroid medication.
"I want to say thank you to the jury for returning this verdict and for all their work over the last few days," Kennedy said outside the courthouse following the verdict.
She also thanked her lawyers, her family and friends, her mother Ethel and her daughter Cara.
"I'm just very, very, very grateful that justice was done," she said.
One of her defense attorneys, Gerald Lefcourt, said, "We're of course thrilled by the verdict, but you've got to wonder why an ill-advised prosecution like this was brought. Is it because of who the defendant is?"
Her other attorney, William Aronwald, said that the prosecution refused to dismiss the case because ti would create the impression that Kennedy was receiving special treatment because of her famous family.
"We made it very clear from the outset and in our papers that all we asked the prosecution to do was view her as if her name was Mary Housewife," Aronwald said. "We did not ask for any special treatment, and the fact that they took the hardline position they did suggests to us that they were the ones who treated this case differently because of who she is, Kerry Kennedy. That is what is appalling."
Lefcourt said that there was never a consideration of settling the case. He also acknowledged that Kennedy had the means to hire attorneys and fight the case
"It is a very depressing situation in the criminal justice system, there is not enough adequate resources for defense lawyers, defense investigators," he said. "It's something I have cared about since i was a public defender, and we've got to do more so that there really could be equal justice under the law."
Kennedy said, "I really did have great, great, great lawyers, and most people don't have access to that, and we need to take a hard look at our criminal justice system in the United States to make sure that it really is just and that everyone in our country has true access to justice."
The prosecutors had no comment following the ruling.