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Tommy Lee cleared in boy's drowning death

By Harriet Ryan
Court TV

Rock drummer Tommy Lee
Rock drummer Tommy Lee

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SANTA MONICA, California -- A jury cleared rock star Tommy Lee of all responsibility in the drowning of a young boy in his swimming pool Thursday and awarded no money to the boy's parents, who had requested $10 million.

The 4-year-old boy, Daniel Karven-Veres, was attending a birthday party for Lee's son at the former Motley Crue drummer's Malibu mansion when he was found floating in the shallow end of the kidney-shaped pool.

The jury deliberated two hours and 15 minutes over two days before reaching its verdict, which was unanimous even though only nine of 12 jurors were required to agree.

"It was very, very obvious Tommy Lee was not responsible for the death of that child," said jury foreman Howard Pollack, 62, after the verdict was read.

Lee, who arrived at court shortly before the verdict, displayed no emotion as it was read and left quickly through a back exit without comment.

The drowning occurred June 16, 2001, during the fifth birthday party of Lee's eldest son, Brandon. Daniel was one of 15 preschoolers attending the party with their adult companions. Daniel was accompanied by his nanny Christian Weihs, who left the party early to attend a concert and asked another babysitter, Judith Zeihm, to look after the boy. Zeihm was allegedly out walking her dog when Daniel drowned.

Daniel's parents, German actress Ursula Karven-Veres and television producer James Veres, later said the boy couldn't swim.

Juror No.1, who did not wish to be named, said she blamed Zeihm for the drowning, noting "She was supposed to be watching him." The juror expressed sympathy for Daniel's parents, who did not appear in the courtroom Thursday, but added, "it didn't mean that Tommy Lee was responsible."

Authorities ruled the drowning an accident, but Daniel's parents filed a civil suit against Lee for wrongful death and negligence, alleging he should have done more to ensure his young guests' safety.

During closing arguments Thursday in the five-day trial, the Vereses' lawyer, Thomas Girardi, blamed the accident on Lee's "cavalier attitude," saying, "There was absolutely no care or consideration given this little child to make sure he wouldn't end up dead."

But Lee's lawyer, Jim Baratta, said during his own closing argument that the heavy metal rocker acted as any reasonable host would, noting that California law does not require lifeguards at private parties.

"Of course Mr. Lee is sorry, but it wasn't his fault what happened," Baratta said.

The jury foreman agreed that a lifeguard was not needed. "Does anybody do that? Just because it was Tommy Lee, should he have done that? No," said Pollack, who owns a pool himself and has a 4-year-old grandson.

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