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Kerry Kennedy acquitted in 2012 accident

Kerry Kennedy (center) left court with her mother, Ethel, who attended the trial each day, and another relative.

Eduardo Munoz/Reuters

Kerry Kennedy (center) left court with her mother, Ethel, who attended the trial each day, and another relative.

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. — Kerry Kennedy was swiftly acquitted Friday of drugged driving in a case that her lawyers said would never have been brought if she were ‘‘Mary Housewife’’ rather than a member of a well-known political family.

After four days of testimony, a six-person jury took a little over an hour to find Kennedy not guilty of driving while impaired. She was arrested in 2012 after swerving into a tractor-trailer on an interstate highway in her Lexus.

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The 54-year-old human-rights advocate — the daughter of Robert F. Kennedy, niece of President John F. Kennedy, and former wife of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo — testified she mistakenly took a sleeping pill instead of her daily thyroid medication the morning of the wreck.

If convicted, she could have faced a year in jail, though that would have been unlikely for a first-time offender.

Her lawyers made sure that the jurors knew all about her famous family. But after the acquittal, they said she should have been treated like ‘‘Mary Housewife.’’ And they accused prosecutors of giving her special treatment by refusing to drop the case.

The district attorney’s office rejected the accusation. And Kennedy herself said she wasn’t angry about being put on trial.

In a show of the Kennedy clan’s famous loyalty, the defendant’s mother, Ethel Kennedy, attended the trial daily. Nearly a dozen other members of the family came by.

Laurence Leamer, who has written three books about the Kennedys, said: ‘‘The Kennedys are very loyal to each other in a crisis. . . . It’s one of the most admirable things about them.’’ He said there’s no way to gauge the effect on the jury, but ‘‘Kennedys or not, it’s Defense 101 to have family members sitting there for the jury to see.’’

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