LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - By Whitney Grunder - email
LUFKIN, Texas (KTRE) - The second day of trial has begun for a Livingston man 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, 22, 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 called forensic pathologist, Dr. Tommy J. Brown, to the stand for questioning. Brown performed autopsies on both DeJesus and Martinez.
"He had blunt force trauma to the chest…and a ruptured heart," said Brown when asked about the cause of death for Arturo DeJesus Jr.
"Do you have an opinion about his [Thomas Martinez] cause of death?" asked Latino.
"Yes. He had severe lacerations and bruises to the brain as well as blunt force trauma to the chest," said Brown.
"Are these wounds consistent with that of a person who had been involved in an automobile accident?" asked Latino.
"They could be, yes," said Brown.
Wade's attorney Ryan Deaton cross examined. "Did Mr. Martinez have marijuana in his system?"
"He did," Brown said.
When questioned, Brown said Martinez had a low level of marijuana in his system at the time. He said DeJesus did not have marijuana in his system, but had been drinking.
Ernestane Martinez says this doesn't justify what happened to her son.
"He's always going to be in my heart. He's always going to be on my mind, every day, every night that I go to bed. He was my baby," she said.
Deaton asked Brown, "How could injuries affect the blood alcohol levels?"
"Decreased blood pressure, so blood does not go to the liver as fast," Brown said.
"If a person has danger to their liver specifically, and more specifically arteries that were cut…could that slow down the metabolism rate at which you expel alcohol out of your system?" asked Deaton.
"Yes," said Brown.
"And .02 is the average amount of alcohol dispelled per hour?" asked Deaton.
"It's the mean, depending on the individual," said Brown.
"There's all kinds of variables before the driving that could affect the blood alcohol including age, how big you are, if you've eaten, etc…is that correct?" asked Deaton.
"Yes it can certainly be influenced by a number of variables," answered Brown.
"And at .04 your motor skills can become affected?" asked Deaton.
"Yes, they can certainly be affected," Brown said.
"How?" Deaton asked.
"Slower reaction times would be one of the main things," Brown said.
"Have you ever seen an article which states that your reaction time doesn't deteriorate until a .17?" asked Deaton.
"I'd have to disagree with that," said Brown.
DPS forensic chemist Karen Ream was called to the stand for questioning about the effects alcohol can have on a person, when their blood alcohol level is below the legal drinking limit.
"The reaction time takes longer."
"But I'm not even at .08?" asked Latino.
"That's correct…You are still impaired."
The families of Arturo DeJesus and Thomas Martinez say they will never know why the young boys chose to get in the car with Wade after he had been drinking early Halloween morning.
They say, Wade did live to explain his decision to get behind the wheel.
"They say he was pressured to drive, but you know nobody makes you drive a vehicle if you don't want to," said Yesenia DeJesus, Arturo's sister.
Wade's blood alcohol level was tested roughly two hours after the accident at .05, below the legal drinking limit.
"Period, alcohol was involved. That's it," said DeJesus.
Wade's attorney argues the tragedy was an accident, not a crime.
Two families disagree, and say the former marine should take responsibility for his actions.
"Whatever is going to be or will be or the outcome, neither Thomas or Arturo are going to come back," said DeJesus.
Wade's family declined an on-camera interview.
The trial is expected to finish tomorrow.