LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - Day three of the trial against a Diboll man accused of driving at high speeds with his wife on top of the car began Monday in Judge Paul White's 159th Judicial District Court at the Angelina County Courthouse.
Arthur Brown, 36, is charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon for the November 16, 2011 incident, in which prior testimony revealed Brown and his then wife, Candice Batiste Brown, got into an argument over marital issues.
Camille Howard Batiste, Candice's father, testified on Thursday that his daughter and Brown had traveled to Houston to file divorce papers when Brown took off and headed back to their residence in Diboll. Two days later, Candice and her father returned to her Diboll residence to get some of her belongings. Batiste said he left Candice alone for about 15 minutes so he could meet a locksmith and when he returned he saw Brown driving his white Cadillac towards U.S. 59 with Candice holding onto the back of the car. Batiste said he did not know that the couple's one-year-old son was in the back of the Cadillac.
On Friday, the trial was recessed because of health concerns after Brown had to leave the courtroom to throw up in a trashcan. Defense Attorney Eugene Newsom told KTRE News that Brown is suffering from a case of strep throat.
During Monday's testimony, Deputy Randy Ware with the Angelina County Sheriff's Department said he was responsible for making a copy of the original 911 call between Brown and dispatch.
In the 911 call, Brown's voice is broken, and distraught. He is breathing very heavily as he tells the dispatcher that his wife is on the car. The dispatcher tells Brown, "You can't keep driving!" Several of Brown's words are inaudible during portions of the call, but at one point he said, "I'm scared," and starts to cry.
Lacey Jones, the District Attorney Investigator, said upon listening to the four-minute 911 call Brown states that his wife had jumped from the vehicle around the two and a half minute mark. She said Brown said he had been driving about 5 miles per hour on the highway prior to his wife jumping from the vehicle. Jones said she decided to drive from Brown's residence to FM 2108, where Candice had fallen off the vehicle traveling at 5 miles per hour. Jones said it took her approximately 12 minutes.
"Driving five miles an hour, there's no way she fell off where she fell off in two and a half minutes," Jones said. "In the 911 call, or in his witness statement, I believe he said he was almost at U.S. 59 and Morris Road when he found his phone."
Jones said she also took the route at around 55 miles per hour, which is the posted speed limit in that area. Newsom asked Jones if Morris Road is a straight or smooth road, and Jones said it is not a straight road and does have a lot of curves and the road is a little bumpy.
Jones said she made her drive based on evidence in Brown's statement, but Newsom said Brown stated in the 911 call that he was on U.S. 59. He said there is no way for Jones to know if Brown did in fact start driving from his residence.
Newsom said in Brown's statement he said that he feared for his life because Candice said she was going to kill him. He then said Brown stated that he stopped his car at least six times in the statement, and even came to a complete stop at the intersection of Morris Road and U.S. 59.
Newsom asked Jones why she didn't stop her car six times while making her driving visualization.
"Cause I wanted to show how long it would take to get from his driveway to 2108," Jones said. "If I did stop, I would not know how long to stop for."
Jones said that the road is at an incline at the intersection, and said she does agree with Newsom that if someone were on the back of the car, they would be at an incline as well.
Jones said in the statement Brown said he was driving up Morris Road at approximately five miles per hour when he found his cell phone and said he came to a "complete stop," at a stop sign at Morris Road and U.S. 59.
But prosecuting attorney Katrina Carswell said there is no reference in the 911 call or the statement to Brown's exact location at the time that he made the phone call. Jones said she did not find any evidence that Brown had stopped, and the only time it is referenced that Brown stopped was in his written statement.
Jones said she does not know exactly where Brown was when he made the 911 call, and that she was just going by what he had said in his written statement.
Candice Batiste Brown says they had traveled to Houston to visit the child support office, when Brown took their one-year-old son Brandon and left her stranded.
Candice says she went outside and saw Brown pull across the street, look at her and then drive away. She says all her personal belongings were inside Brown's Cadillac, including her credit cards, and her cell phone. Candice says she started walking towards her parent's house in Houston, which was an hour away from the office. She said she then called one of her mom's neighbors to come pick her up.
Later that evening, Candice said her mom drove her to her residence in Diboll to get some of her belongings. After they retrieved those belongings, they returned to the Batiste's residence in Houston. Candice said she was looking for her spare keys to her 1999 Grand Cherokee Jeep but was unable to find them at the house.
Two days later, which was Nov. 16, 2011, Candice returned to her Diboll residence with her father Camille Howard Batiste. She said the day before they had called a locksmith to make a key for her car, but the locksmith got lost.
Candice says there was no one at the residence when she arrived. While her father went to go meet the locksmith, Candice began to get some of her belongings and her son's belongings. She said she had a separate spare key to the house that she hid in the bushes that Arthur Brown did not know about. She says she heard a car drive up the driveway and noticed it was Brown.
She says when Brown saw her he said, "Oh [expletive]," and ran out of the house. Candice says Brown was very surprised to see her and he ran to the car. Candice then decided to run after him because she wanted to see if her son was inside the vehicle. I asked him "where is Brandon? Is he in the car?" and that's when he ran towards the car, she says.
Candice said Brown slammed her hand inside the front door of the house during their chase. She says he tried to shut the door, but her hand was there and that's when the door closed on it. She said she grabbed Brown's arm to stop him and he pushed her to the ground. She says Brown then pushed her into a brick wall. Candice said she saw her son in the backseat of the car and was trying to open the back door of the car to get her son.
She says she did not receive any injuries during their scuffle, and her hand wasn't hurting. She says the car was parked about 30 steps away from the front door of the house.
Candice says the back door to the Cadillac was locked, and she was just trying to get her son out of the car. She says she never made any threats towards Brown, and all she said was for him to not take her son. When Candice got to the vehicle, she says Brown got into the vehicle, locked the doors, and then started the ignition. She said Brown started to put the car into reverse and Candice said she yelled "stop!" She then climbed onto the back of the vehicle, to get him to stop, she says.
"I just thought maybe he would stop. We had been having problems, maybe we could work out some sort of solution to maybe joint custody because we as us together we weren't working out. But as to our son Brandon I wanted to make some sort of agreement work," Candice said. "Those two days that I didn't see my son I did not know where he was. I called [Arthur's] parents asking if he was okay. I was really thinking that I would never see my son again. Not seeing my son again? That was unbelievable."
I was screaming at him to "stop," "don't do this," "let's work it out," and then he started to go a little faster, she says.
"At that point I was terrified. I was like he's not going to listen," Candice said.
She said Brown backed up, turned around, and then started driving forward out of the driveway towards the road while she was on the back of the Cadillac.
Candice says one portion of the driveway at her residence is asphalt, and the rest is rock. She says the reversal, and turn around was very quick and she had a hard time holding onto the vehicle.
"I was screaming at the top of my lungs 'help!'" Candice said. She says she could not hear Brown's voice at all inside the car, nor if he even had a radio on.
She says Brown was probably going about 15 miles per hour out of the driveway. She said there is a groove in the back of the Cadillac that she held onto and she had her legs curved up on the back bumper. She says Brown never came to a stop.
"I was screaming at him 'Stop. Stop. Stop!' and he just kept going faster," Candice said. She said she believes Brown could hear her inside the vehicle.
Candice says she believes Brown was driving about 40 miles per hour on Morris Road. She says the road is very bumpy and very rough. She says she generally drives less than the posted speed limit on that road because of it's rough exterior, and she says Brown was driving too fast, much faster than he should be driving. She said they hit several potholes and he still did not stop.
"He was trying to stagger and he was trying to throw me off the vehicle," Candice said. She said stagger means Brown was making sharp turns repeatedly.
"I'm being left to right moving on the back of the vehicle," Candice said. "It freaked me out—he ran the stop sign in the middle of traffic. All I hear is car horns blasting, trying to avoid him and then he's just moving in and out of traffic."
Carswell asked Candice how she stayed on the car because of the incline in the road.
"I was just holding tight," Candice said. "At that point, I was too terrified to let go because of the incoming traffic."
She said Brown never rolled the window down to speak to her. She says the traffic was "going pretty fast."
Candice says she made eye contact with a woman in a car next to her and yelled, "Help. Help. Help." She says she thinks the passerby was in disbelief.
She says she saw three cars dart out of the way because of Brown running the stop sign and driving into incoming traffic. She said she traveled maybe three car lengths before she saw her dad on the road. She said she could not hear anything except the sounds of traffic.
Candice says her dad was on the left side of the car, he then drove up and tried to cut Brown off. She says her father was yelling, "Jump off, jump off Candice, jump off."
She says her father tried to cut Brown off again, and Brown darted around him. She said this happened one more time, before Brown slowed down and then sped up again. She says that's when she fell off the car facedown into the pavement of the highway.
"I was frightened and scared ... I was just too shaken up," Candice said.
She says she never felt her father was putting her at risk because she knows that her father was only trying to help. She says when her father got in front of Brown he never made a complete stop. During the third time, she says Brown came to a slight rolling stop, but then he "punched it."
She says she never felt Brown was driving as slowly as five miles per hour. She says cars were passing by them, but they did not appear to be driving slowly.
"My body was swaying jerkingly," Candice said. She said she was unable to hold herself in a taunt position, especially when he "punched it."
She says she could hear her son crying, despite saying she could not hear Brown.
"You always know when your son is crying out for their mom," Candice said.
Candice said when she fell off the car she was in excruciating pain and could not see out of her left eye.
"I heard my dad's voice and he kept saying 'Oh my God. Oh my God. Oh my God,'" Candice said.
She said she just tried to stay awake during the trip to Tyler. Once she got to the hospital she learned one of her fingers and her left hand was broken, her jaw was misaligned, and her left eye was swollen. She said they put her under anesthesia to pop her bones back into place, and her hand was put into a cast. She had to have stiches underneath her jaw and in her lips. She said it took one week for the swollen eye to heal, three weeks for her stitches to heal, and a month for her facial swelling to heal.
She said she is still having issues from her injuries she sustained that day and she can't completely close her left hand to make a fist. Candice said she was reunited with her son about four hours after she was released from the hospital.
Carswell asked Candice if she felt Brown's driving had put her at risk, in which she responded "yes." Candice said during the two days after Brown had left her stranded in Houston she was unable to reach him because his phone was turned off. She said she also called her in-laws and was unable to reach them.
Candice said her and Brown separated in September, but they decided to go ahead and try to make it work. Newsom asked Candice if she was aware that in order to file child support papers she had to be living in Harris County for 90 days especially since she had been living in Angelina County for the past two years.
Candice said she understood that, but did not finish all the paperwork when she was at the Attorney General's office in Houston.
There was some confusion during Candice's testimony. During earlier testimony, Candice said she used a cell phone to call her parent's neighbor to come pick her up, but during cross-examination with Newsom, she says she actually used a pay phone at a gas station. She said she used a cellphone at the Attorney General's office to call Brown.
She also testified her mom brought her to Diboll around 6 p.m., later saying her mom didn't even get off work until 5:30 p.m. so it was much later in the evening when they arrived in Diboll.
Candice said she did grab Brown to get him to stop from leaving the house, admitting she was the physical aggressor.