LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - By Whitney Grunder - email
LUFKIN, Texas (KTRE) - A Livingston man is before an Angelina County jury, facing charges of intoxicated manslaughter in the deaths of two men in a Hudson crash taking place early Halloween morning of 2008.
On Oct. 31, just one minute after midnight, John Lee Wade, 21, was headed west on FM 706 at Stephenson Brown Road when his car left the road and hit a tree. The 2009 Dodge Challenger caught fire.
Arturo DeJesus Jr., 19, of Diboll, died at the scene from burns he received. The second passenger, Thomas Martinez, 20, was transported to Memorial Medical Center. He, too, was severely burned and was pronounced dead at 7 a.m.
Wade is a former U.S. Marine from Livingston. DPS troopers say none of them were wearing seatbelts.
Prosecuting attorney Tony Latino gave his opening statement before the jury.
"They had been attending a party. They were all there at the same time. At some point in time, the defendant and his two passengers decided to get into Wade's brand new 2009 Dodge Challenger," prosecuting attorney Tony Latino said. "The evidence will show that the troopers who were on the scene spoke to several individuals. Several who were at the party ... Blood was drawn from Mr. Wade and analyzed by the DPS crime lab. The blood was drawn and tested approximately two hours after the accident. The blood analysis came back at .05 alcohol level."
Latino told the jury evidence would show Wade's drinking did affect his mental and physical capabilities during the night of the wreck.
"Accidents happen every day," Wade's attorney, Ryan Deaton, said.
Deaton described Wade as being a responsible man, a former U.S. Marine, and a man who drank responsibly. Deaton talked about Wade being invited to a get-together in Lufkin the night of the accident. Deaton said Wade had no intention of leaving the party that night.
"He went to see his girlfriend, with no knowledge that there would be alcohol at the party…Wade drank a total of three drinks and he was playing beer pong." Deaton said. "You'll hear it from witnesses, he was not intoxicated."
Deaton explained, during the gathering, Wade's girlfriend called him out to the porch to talk with him, and that others followed, including DeJesus.
"DeJesus began asking Wade for a ride in his brand new car, repeatedly," Deaton said. "Both DeJesus and Thomas Martinez were both legally drunk at the time. Finally, my client agreed to give them both a ride ... He was not doing anything reckless. He was not intoxicated. You heard the state, his blood level was at .05…We're going to prove my client is not guilty of any crime but an accident."
Department of Public Safety spokesman Greg Sanches says driving under the legal drinking limit can be dangerous.
"You can actually be filed on, even under the .08 if you have a situation where someone is definitely impaired," he said. "Judgment reaction and coordination skills are affected."
Sanches says when someone gets behind the wheel with any amount of alcohol in their system they could be charged with DWI or in Wade's case, intoxicated manslaughter.
"It's not worth taking the chance of getting on the road when you've been drinking," he said.