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Lawyer attacks expert's speed calculation in Fort Worth trial

FORT WORTH -- Patience wore thin today as defense attorney Okey Akpom spent more than four hours trying to discredit scientific tests used to determine Samuel Hilburn's 97 miles per hour speed when his Lexus rear-ended a patrol car, killing Fort Worth Police Officer Dwayne Freeto in a fiery crash.

The Tarrant County jury hearing Hillburn’s intoxication manslaughter trial was sent from the courtroom four times as Akpom questioned accident reconstruction expert Timothy Lovett about the Crown Victoria patrol car’s tendency to explode during rear-end collisions like the one that killed Freeto on Dec. 17, 2006.

Freeto had stopped to help a disabled motorist with a flat tire and was inside his patrol car waiting for help when the crash occurred.

During testimony Wednesday, State District Judge Elizabeth Berry lost her patience after repeatedly asking Akpom to question Lovett, not discuss the studies about the Crown Victoria crash tests.

“Come into my office,” Berry ordered, as Akpom followed her from the courtroom. The jury was not in the courtroom when the exchange took place.

Minutes later, Akpom returned and continued his effort to discredit the method Lovett used to determine Hillburn’s speed when he struck Freeto’s car, causing both vehicles to burst into flames.

Akpom even asked Lovett to re-calculate the speed of the Lexus, plugging different numbers into the five-page formula, which included the weight of the four vehicles involved in the collision. Freeto’s patrol car was parked behind the disabled vehicle and a pickup, driven by a friend of the motorist, when the crash occurred.

After 90 minutes of re-calculating the formula to show how the answers are impacted by the numbers that are fed into the formula, Lovett reported a speed that was less than 1 mph faster than the original calculation.

Testimony is scheduled to resume at 2:15 p.m. in Criminal District Court No. 3.