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Kennedy crash trial opens in N.Y.

Kerry Kennedy was accompanied by her mother, Ethel, and brother Douglas as she left the Westchester County Courthouse on Monday.

Eduardo Munoz/Reuters

Kerry Kennedy was accompanied by her mother, Ethel, and brother Douglas as she left the Westchester County Courthouse on Monday.

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. — Kerry Kennedy swerved her Lexus into a truck, damaging the car and blowing a tire but kept driving and later was slumped at her steering wheel and disoriented, motorists testified Monday at her drugged-driving trial.

Her lawyer said she was ‘‘sleep-driving’’ because she had accidentally taken a sleeping pill.

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Kennedy, ex-wife of Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York, daughter of Senator Robert F. Kennedy, and niece of President John F. Kennedy, went on trial Monday in suburban New York.

In his opening statement, defense lawyer Gerald Lefcourt told the six jurors that Kennedy was not disputing that she drove erratically. But he said it happened because she accidentally took a sleeping pill that morning instead of her thyroid medication.

Kennedy’s blood tests revealed a small amount of the sleeping drug zolpidem. ‘‘The zolpidem kicks in. It shuts her down. She’s in a state of sleep-driving,’’ Lefcourt said.

Prosecutor Doreen Lloyd said even if the pill were taken accidentally, Kennedy violated the law ‘‘by failing to stop and pull over as she felt the onset of symptoms.’’

Kennedy, 54, of Bedford, was arrested in 2012 after her car hit a tractor-trailer on an interstate highway. She drove to the next exit, where she stopped, police said.

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