LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - The trial against a Diboll man who is charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon for driving with his wife on top of his vehicle began Thursday morning in Judge Paul E. White's 159th Judicial District Court at the Angelina County Courthouse.
Arthur Davis Brown, 36, was arrested in November 2011 after authorities apprehended him near Feagin Drive in Lufkin for driving high speeds with his wife, Candice Batiste Brown, on top of his vehicle. He has pleaded not guilty to the charge against him.
Former Angelina County Sheriff Kent Henson told KTRE News in November 2011 that Brown called 911 and mentioned he had a disturbance with his wife. The dispatcher asked Brown if his wife was in the car and Brown said, "No, my wife's on the car."
Inv. Seth Stover said Brown went to Houston with his wife and their one-year-old son to run some errands when the couple got in a marital argument. During the progression of the fight, the child ended up in Brown's car and they left the city to return to their residence in Diboll.
The wife called her father, Camille Howard Batiste, to pick her up in Houston and take her home to her residence in Diboll on Morris Road. The father did not have a key to the car, because it was in his daughter's jacket, which was in Brown's Cadillac, Stover said.
Batiste called a locksmith to the house and left to meet the locksmith at the end of the road, Stover said. When Batiste returned to the house, he saw his daughter hanging onto the trunk of Brown's car.
Batiste and the locksmith followed Brown to US 59. That's when Brown called 911 to report that his wife was on the back of the car and his father-in-law was trying to stop him, Stover said.
Stover said the dispatcher kept telling him to stop, and he had almost stopped when Batiste pulled up next to him. Brown then sped up and his wife lost her grip and fell off.
The locksmith continued to follow Brown until police stopped him off Feagin Drive, Stover said.
Candice Brown was taken by hospital to a Tyler hospital, where she was treated for serious injuries after she fell off the vehicle.
During opening arguments, prosecuting attorney Katrina Carswell said Candice Brown, who was 29 years old at the time, is the victim in this case. When Arthur Brown returned home, Candice and Brown got into a physical altercation. Candice Brown jumped onto the rear of the car so that she can stop him and see her son, who she hadn't seen all day.
"He was swerving as if to throw her off the vehicle," Carswell said. "She was screaming for help."
She said Batiste was swerving in front of Brown to get him to stop so that they could get his daughter safely off the car. Around Airport Road, Brown finally slows down, Carswell said, and Candice Brown fell facedown from the vehicle. But, she adds, Brown continued to drive toward Lufkin.
"She felt every swerve, she felt every acceleration," Carswell said. "This was a ride that clearly changed her life."
Defense attorney Eugene Newsom said he believes the evidence is not sufficient to find Brown guilty and that "he is justified in his actions."
He said this event that happened started long before that day. Two days prior to the accident, he said the couple got in an argument and Candice Brown threw a knife at her husband, but in turn, the blunt end of the knife hit their son in the forehead. When Brown went to comfort their son, Candice slashed Brown on the arm with the knife, Newsom said. They then traveled to Houston to file child support papers.
Throughout opening arguments, Brown began to whimper, sobbing uncontrollably. At one point, he had a difficult time catching his breath because he was crying so hard.
Electrician Gary Drake was the first witness to take the stand. Drake said he was leaving Diboll with his wife and his mother on the night of the incident and said he saw something peculiar hanging off the back of a white Cadillac.
"I said, 'What in the world is that on the car?'" Drake said. When he got closer, he said he saw a person hanging off the back of the car. Drake said the Cadillac was only driving about 45 miles an hour, so it was easy for him to catch up to it.
"It was a woman. She was holding onto the back of the car with her fingertips," Drake said. "[The driver] wasn't swerving and she wasn't hollering on the back of the car."
Drake said he saw a red car try to run the white car off the road. Drake said he was just trying to get away from the vehicles and kept on driving. Drake said the red car got in front of the white car one time, and tried to run the white car off the road at least twice.
He said he kept a distance behind the white Cadillac because he was afraid the person was going to jump off the vehicle in front of his Tahoe. He said he felt the red car was aggressive.
Drake's wife, Jeanine, said she didn't notice the woman on the car until her husband brought it to her attention.
"Well what I first saw, was a woman on the trunk of the car holding on," Jeanine Drake said. "She was hanging on the, the trunk on the car. She was just hanging on for dear life."
When they passed the white Cadillac Jeanine Drake said she made eye contact with the woman on the back of the car and said the woman had a terrified expression. Jeanine Drake said she didn't hear anything because her window was up, but saw the woman mouthing the words "help me."
Jeanine Drake said she was a little concerned when she saw the white Cadillac swerve at one point. She said she told her husband they needed to call the authorities and report the incident. Jeanine Drake said she does feel the red car was more aggressive than the white car.
Investigator Terry Fountain with the Angelina County Sheriff's Office said he was called out to what he believed was a "wreck," on the night of the incident. Fountain said Brown was calm when he began his interview at the Sheriff's office after his arrest.
Lt. Jeff Barker, a paramedic for the Lufkin Fire Department, said dispatch received a call that a woman had been thrown from her vehicle in front of Texas Timber Jack on U.S. 59 in Diboll. Barker said he put PHI, the helicopter at Memorial Hospital, on standby just because of the nature of the report and the location of the accident.
Barker said Candice Brown was lying facedown in the northbound lane in the rumble strips, which is the rough asphalt on the shoulder of the highway. He said Candice Brown had a hand injury, and an injury above one of her eyes and she said she was in pain. He said there were swelling, bruising, and drainage coming from her injuries. He said he did consider the swelling of Candice Brown's head to be life threatening so he called the helicopter to life flight her to the hospital.
Barker said Candice Brown continually asked paramedics "where am I? What happened?"
"We felt she could possibly have a brain injury … her level of consciousness was in question for us, which made us feel she might have a bleed," Barker said, meaning a brain bleed.
He said he was surprised Candice Brown didn't have more road rash or any broken bones. He said this could be because a person could hit the road and roll, or just hit the road once.
Newsom asked Barker if someone could receive the same injuries Candice Brown did if their hand was closed on by a car door, or if someone was pushed to the ground or into a brick wall? Barker said that was correct and someone could have those same injuries in those situations.
Mack Grace, a paramedic with the Lufkin Fire Department, said he was originally surprised that Barker put the helicopter on standby because the original dispatch report was very vague. But once he got to the scene and saw Candice Brown's injuries he realized why she needed the helicopter.
"We, here in Lufkin, don't have a trauma center so someone who has sustained traumatic injuries is better to be flown to one of our surrounding trauma centers," Grace said.
He said the fact that Candice Brown had been flown from a moving vehicle, her injuries, and the statements from the bystanders on the scene made it more apparent that she needed immediate care. He said there was no way to know if she had internal injuries, but because of the type of injury, they felt it was best to life flight her to make sure she didn't have internal bleeding or any other traumatic injury.
"She was alert…but she was not coherent. She was able to answer very limited questions. She was confused," Grace said.
Grace said the swelling to her head was very moderate, but swelling usually progresses over time.
Batiste said Brown brought Candice to Houston so she could drop off the divorce papers. While Candice was filing the paperwork, Brown took off and went back to their residence in Diboll, leaving her stranded. Batiste says when he got home he saw his daughter, Candice, and was surprised to see her.
He said Candice stayed with him for about two to three days. Batiste says he called Arthur's dad, Arthur Brown Sr., to let him know he was going to go to the residence in Diboll to pick up his jeep that Candice had been using. He asked Arthur Brown Sr. if he would accompany him and Candice to the residence so that everything would run smoothly.
He says he didn't anticipate there would be any problems. Batiste said he called a locksmith when they were in Livingston and when they got to the residence in Diboll, the locksmith called and said he was lost. Batiste decided to go and meet the locksmith at a Chevron gas station and left Candice at the house for maybe only 15 minutes, he said.
Batiste says he doesn't think Arthur Brown Jr. knew that they were coming to the house. Batiste said he was just stopping by with Candice so they could get his jeep and a few of Candice's belongings.
"All of the sudden, I look and I seen his car and come out the stop sign and it never stopped and go toward U.S. 59. I looked and I said 'Oh lord. That's Candice on the back of it,'" Batiste said.
Batiste says Brown turned into the right lane of incoming traffic. He says he "shot up beside him and I pointed back," at Candice. Batiste says Brown looked him in the eye and he sped up driving about 55 or 60 miles per hour. Batiste said he rolled the window down and told Candice that she needed to get off.
Batiste says Candice looked like she was in a daze, but didn't have any injuries at that time. He said she was holding onto the car with both hands.
"I was screaming. I was screaming with all I had," Batiste said.
Batiste says he tried to get Brown to stop at least three times. He said Brown didn't swerve until he got in front of him and hit his brakes. He said finally Brown stopped. Batiste got out of the car and started running towards Candice to get her off the car. He said that's when Brown took off and Candice fell off the vehicle, hit the pavement, bounced a little bit, then fell onto the shoulder facedown.
"I stood there and looked at him, in the rearview mirror, and I saw him ... just take off and go," Batiste said.
Carswell asked Batiste if he ever thought that by swerving in front of Brown he was putting Candice more at danger.
"I was scared. But if I hadn't done what I would've done, the car was going about 60 miles per hour, she wouldn't be here at all," Batiste said. "I had to take my shirt off and cover my daughter because there was blood everywhere. It's a sight you don't want to see."
He says Candice was in a lot of pain, and she was "just muttering." He said he never used any sort of expletive or a weapon during the chase. He said he felt he didn't do anything threatening toward Brown. But he said he did not know his grandson was in the car.
"I just looked at the helicopter taking off and shook my head," Batiste said. "I didn't know if she was going to live or die."
Batiste said the first time he heard that his grandson was in the car was when a state trooper called him to let him know that his grandson was in the car.
Batiste says he believes Brown was dangerously driving the vehicle and was using it as a weapon.
"He knew she was on there," Batiste said.
Batiste said he was traveling at a higher speed to get around Brown because "he had to," asking Newsom "what would you do if that was your daughter?"
Newsom said if Candice had gotten off the car when the car was stopped she wouldn't have been hurt.
"I don't think she could've gotten off the car. She was traumatized," Batiste said.
Newsom asked him about discrepancies in his testimony saying he testified today saying Brown didn't show any emotion when he saw him after the incident, but that in his written statement he had given in 2011, that Brown had smiled and laughed at him while talking on his cell phone.
"Yeah, I said that," Batiste said. But he says his emotional state that night when he had to write his statement was "rough."
"It's been two years and you know, you can remember a lot of things, but you can't remember everything," Batiste said.