AUSTIN (KXAN) - UPDATE: The verdict is in: Gabrielle Nestande is guilty of criminally negligent homicide in the death of Courtney Griffin. She is not guilty of failure to stop and render aid.
The judge ordered that no emotional outbursts would be tolerated as it was read.
The punishment phase of the case begins Thursday at 3:30 p.m. The process could take as long as two hours and will include opening arguments, testimony and closing arguments.
Griffin's family said after the verdict was read that this is not what the verdict the wanted and broke into tears outside the courthouse.
The jury had three charges to consider against Nestande in the May 27, 2011 hit-and-run crash that killed Griffin of Austin:
- intoxication manslaughter
- failure to stop and render aid
Jurors in the Gabrielle Nestande trial ended their deliberations at 10 p.m. Tuesday after a dramatic day that saw the defendant testify in tears and both sides deliver emotional closing statements.
In closing arguments late Tuesday, Nestande's defense team said the prosecution failed to show that their client was guilty of intoxication manslaughter in the May 2011 death of Courtney Griffin.
"We don't know. We will never know the exact level of intoxication on the night of the fatal car wreck," lawyer Pery Minton told jurors, who will resume deliberations at 9 a.m. Wednesday.
Prosecutors, wrapping up their case, said the evidence clearly showed that Nestande had too much to drink in the hours before the crash.
"We know why she didn't report it to police," said Assistant District Attorney Mary Farrington, "because she was intoxicated. Because she didn't want to get caught."
The closing arguments, came after a long and emotional day in the trial in which Nestande took the stand in her own defense. She wept through much of the testimony.
"Who is responsible that Courtney Griffin died," asked her attorney Sam Bassett.
After a long pause to and several sobs, Nestande said, "I am," wiping away tears.
She then told jurors her account of what happened the night Griffin was killed.
She said that she had consumed several drinks in the hours before the May 2011 accident, but added that she did not feel too drunk to drive.
"I still think I was fine," she told the jury. She said she does not like the taste of warm beer, so only finished drinking the first of an estimated four to five drinks she had.
Nestande also told the court she wished she would have stayed at the home of her boyfriend, William Marchbanks, that night.
"Because then none of this would have happened," she said through more tears.
Nestande said the deadly accident happened as she prepared to check the alarm feature on her cell phone.
"I picked up my phone from the cup-holder, and my windshield just shattered," she said. "It was just an instant. It was so quick."
She said she touched the home screen button on her phone to light up the touch screen and that's when the collision happened. She testified that she was driving 35 to 40 mph at the time of the crash, and that she did not see anything in the windshield, such as fiber from clothing or fur from an animal.
She added that because she was tired, "it would affect anyone's ability to drive a car," but said she was not exhausted enough to the point that she could not drive a car.
Nestande told the court that she checked her rearview mirror for about 30 seconds to a minute but saw nothing unusual and did not get out of her car to look. She said it never occurred to her that she should call police, because she was scared. Instead of going home, she went to her boyfriend's place. She trusted him to go outside and look.
"I was scared when the accident happened that someone was out there and they deliberately did this to my car," Nestande said.
It was not until officers began showing up at Rep. Wayne Christian's office at the capitol building that she began to realize she had hit a human.
When she saw a detective wearing a shirt that said "vehicular homicide," she testified after a long emotional pause that she "couldn't believe it."
The judge allowed a five-minute break before the prosecution's cross-examination so Nestande, who was very emotional on the stand, could compose herself.
Nestande started her testimony by talking about her education and what it was like working for a state lawmaker in the waning days of the 2011 legislative session.
She also said she did not have anything to drink at the first bar she and her friends visited the evening Griffin was struck and killed.
After leaving the first bar, she told the court that she and her boyfriend then decided to go to another bar.
There, she testified in a soft but composed voice, she ordered a beer and said two men in her group bought several rounds for the table.
Nestande also said she took a shot of alcohol on impulse, adding that she wanted to leave the bar not long after that.
"After I drank that shot," she testified, "I was ready to go home.
I was tired. I did not feel intoxicated. I didn't feel like I couldn't control myself."
When asked about the empty beer bottle found in her car after the accident, Nestande said it had been left there a long time ago by her boyfriend and that her car was dirty.
She was then questioned to see if she was aware that her mother had put out a request on Facebook to bar witnesses after the crash, to which she said 'no.'
Nestande testified that she disabled her Facebook account after the crash because of all the media attention and because she was getting messages from people she didn't know.
Before Nestande took the stand around 11:15 a.m., Eric Moody, an accident reconstructionist for the defense team, testified about Nestande's recollection of what happened on that night.
Moody said he had interviewed Nestande as a part of his reconstruction. Nestande told him she looked down at her phone to check and see if her alarm had been set when her windshield suddenly shattered.
Moody testified that Nestande pulled over and looked in her mirrors to see what she may have hit, but did not see anything. She then became scared and left the scene.
Courtney Griffin was found dead in a nearby driveway several hours later.
The prosecution's reconstructionist testified on Monday that a sober driver would have had 13 seconds to see Griffin and avoid hitting her.
However, Moody's reconstruction found that canopies along Exposition Boulevard would have covered street lights and that reaction time would have been affected because a driver is not expecting to see a dark-clad pedestrian walking in the bike lane.
Jury could get case Tuesday
Judge Karen Sage warned the jury at the start of business Tuesday that they could be in for a potentially long day and night.
The prosecution rested on Monday, and the defense is expected to wrap up its case on Tuesday. If they do, the jury could begin deliberations that last into the night.
The trial surrounding the three felony charges began last week after a group of 85 potential jurors was narrowed down to a list of 12 jurors on Feb. 11.
Since no sobriety test was able to be performed, prosecutors have relied on witness testimony and bar surveillance video to prove Nestande was drunk that night.
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