Deliberations lengthy in homicide trial

LAWRENCEVILLE - Deliberations for a jury trying to decide whether a Snellville man drove recklessly before killing a motorist in 2005 have spilled into today.

Jurors mulling the case of Nazim Chandrani broke for deliberations shortly before noon but couldn't reach a decision by Thursday evening.

Chandrani has sat attentively through a three-day trial this week. He faces vehicular homicide charges in the October 2005 death of Kevin Thiel of Marietta.

Prosecutors say Chandrani, of Snellville, drove his 2002 Acura recklessly through rush-hour traffic on U.S. Highway 78 before striking Thiel's 1999 Plymouth Voyager head-on; his defense attorney argues the crash was brought on by Chandrani's epilepsy, which he has struggled with since boyhood.

Key evidence in the case has been the conflicting testimony of two doctors, both highly regarded neurologists in metro Atlanta.

Dr. Badar Syed, a Snellville neurologist, testified that Chandrani's condition likely played a part in the crash, gripping him in a seizure and causing him to lose control of his vehicle.

A different neurologist called by the state, Dr. Charles Epstein, testified that the driving maneuvers Chandrani pulled off before impact would not be possible for a person having the complex seizures he is prone to.

"The pre-eminent expert says flat out that couldn't happen," Chief Deputy Assistant District Attorney David Fife said during closing arguments.

Chandrani was driving with his 3-year-old niece - on his way to buy a Halloween costume - when he began swerving around traffic, his car sideswiping another vehicle before striking Thiel's van near Ross Road. Thiel died at the scene.

Theil, who was married with two children, was on his way home from a guitar lesson in Lilburn.

Chandrani suffered two seizures while he was later hospitalized at Grady Memorial Hospital. Tests yielded no evidence of alcohol or illegal drugs in Chandrani's bloodstream at the time of the crash.

Georgia law prohibits licensed drivers who have experienced a seizure only in the previous six months from operating a vehicle. Chandrani last reported having a seizure about five years prior to the crash.

The jury is expected to resume deliberations at 9 a.m. today, Fife said.