She mistakenly took a sleeping pill on July 13, 2012, thinking it was her thyroid medicine, and tried to go to the gym.

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WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. — After less than an hour of deliberation and four days of arguments, experts and evidence, a six-person jury returned a verdict Friday of not guilty in the drugged-driving trial of Kerry Kennedy.

The 54-year-old daughter of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy was charged with a single count of driving while ability impaired by drugs, stemming from a July 13, 2012, incident in which she drove for miles down Interstate 684 while under the influence of Ambien, a fast-acting sleeping pill.

DAY 4: Deliberations continue Friday for Kennedy
DAY 3: Kennedy denies deliberately taking Ambien

The four-man, two-woman panel began discussing the case late Thursday after lawyers for Kennedy made their closing arguments. After asking to have some testimony read to them, they went home and returned Friday morning. If convicted, Kennedy could have faced loss of her driving privileges and up to a year in jail.

"I want to say thank you to the jury for returning this verdict and for all their work over the last few days," Kennedy said outside the courtroom before thanking her lawyers and family, in particular "my mother, Ethel Kennedy."

For the first time since the trial began, Ethel Kennedy, 85, did not use a wheelchair as she left the courthouse, walking two blocks with assistance from Kerry Kennedy and one of Ethel Kennedy's granddaughters to a restaurant where the family has gone each day of the trial for lunch.

Jurors declined to speak to the dozens of reporters and photographers who had gathered here since the start of the trial Monday and were escorted quietly from the courthouse by another exit.

At the heart of the case was whether the ex-wife of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and niece of President John F. Kennedy knowingly continued to drive after realizing she took the pill, which she said was of similar color and shape to her thyroid medicine.

The Bedford, N.Y., resident fought the misdemeanor charges every step of the way, at first saying she must have had a seizure.

The initial case was moved from North Castle Town Court to Westchester County Superior Court here because of what her lawyers argued would be a high-profile trial of a member of a prominent Democratic political family.

DAY 2: Prosecution rests in drugged-driving case
DAY 1: Kerry Kennedy's trial opens

Both sides largely agreed that she drove her Lexus SUV about 5 miles down Interstate 684 in this New York suburb after she said she accidentally took a 10-milligram dose of zolpidem, the generic name for Ambien. Along the way she sped, swerved dangerously, hit a tractor-trailer, popped a tire, and for some portion of the trip drove on a bare rim before coming to a stop on New York 22 in Armonk, N.Y. She had been headed to a gym.

Kerry Kennedy grew up the seventh of 11 children of Robert F. and Ethel Kennedy and became an author and human rights activist as an adult. She married Cuomo in 1990, and they divorced in 2005 while Cuomo was state attorney general.

The prosecution played up on her privileged background, telling the jury in closing arguments that to be fair she should be held accountable for her actions as others are.

With her acquittal she now joins another exclusive club: The tiny percentage of defendants found not guilty of misdemeanor charges in the county's courts. In 2012, the latest year available, only 21 people — 0.2% of all cases — were fully acquitted, according to the state Division of Criminal Justice Services.

STORY: Major stage for a minor case
STORY: Ambien found in Kennedy's blood

Kerry Kennedy had the option of a bench trial in front of Judge Robert Neary but instead opted for a jury trial. William Aronwald, one of Kerry Kennedy's lawyers, said his client wanted a jury trial to raise the bar for prosecutors, who had to persuade the panel of her guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

The Westchester County District Attorney's Office prosecutes 2,500 impaired-driving cases annually, and "this case was treated no differently from any of the others," Lucian Chalfen, a spokesman for the office, said in a statement.

"The jury heard all of the evidence in this case, and we respect their verdict," Chalfen said.

STORY: Kennedy claims seizure led to accident
RELATED: Douglas Kennedy sues nurses, hospital

Kerry Kennedy's lawyers said the office never should have pressed charges in the first place.

"Kerry Kennedy has the resources" to defend herself, Aronwald said. "What about the person who doesn't?"

Aronwald said prosecutors told the defense that they could not dismiss the case because doing so would create the impression that Kerry Kennedy was getting special treatment.

In November 2012, her brother, Douglas Kennedy, went on trial here on child-endangerment charges after a scuffle with nurses as he tried to remove his newborn from a hospital maternity ward. He, too, was acquitted.

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