Defense of woman charged in Evelyn Rodriguez's death focuses on 2008 attack, PTSD

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The trial of the Patchogue woman accused of running over and killing a Brentwood anti-gang activist continued Thursday, with jurors hearing from the defense about what happened that day.

The prosecution wrapped up Wednesday after calling a police officer, a detective and the county medical examiner to testify.

As News 12 has reported, AnnMarie Drago is accused of running over Evelyn Rodriguez in September 2018 after a heated confrontation. Drago's attorney claims his client feared for her life.

Testimony centered around Drago as a victim of a vicious attack in a hospital psych unit. Drago, a nurse, was punched, dragged and choked by a patient in 2008. She was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

MORE: News 12's Eileen Lehpamer testifies in trial of driver charged in Evelyn Rodriguez death 

Even though that incident occurred over a decade ago, she was still in therapy in September 2018 when she was confronted by Rodriguez and her longtime partner.

The two were upset that Drago had taken down a memorial to the couple's murdered teen daughter that was set up by the house of Drago's mother.

Clinical psychologist Elizabeth Smyth testified that even today, Drago remains "terrified, nervous and feels the worst is going to happen." She added about the hospital attack that "she suddenly acts or feels as if it's happening again."

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‘Fearing for my life.’ Drago describes Evelyn Rodriguez confrontation in grand jury testimonyVideo shot by News 12 capturing Evelyn Rodriguez’s death played at trial 
Dramatic 911 tape played on 1st day of trial for woman accused of killing anti-gang activist 

Defense attorney Stephen Kunken argues that when his client struck and killed Rodriguez, she was just trying to escape from what she considered a dangerous situation.

"It's innate in all of us, that you're going to go into a survival mode if you feel you're under attack," says Kunken. "And you're more sensitive to that if you're suffering from PTSD as AnnMarie was."

A second psychologist who examined Drago for the defense also took the stand and testified that Drago was extremely frightened by the confrontation, unsure if she'd be beaten. He said the incident triggered PTSD symptoms, causing her to flee the situation as soon as she could.


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