NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - Tuesday marked the first day of a jury trial for a Garrison man accused of negligent homicide in connection to an August 2012 wreck involving a log truck and a passenger car that resulted in the death of 56-year-old Catarino Perez.
Jerome Charez Bryant, 40, appeared in Judge Edwin Klein's 420th Judicial District Court Tuesday morning. He is on trial for a state-jail felony criminally negligent homicide charge.
According to Texas Department of Public Safety officials, Bryant was driving a Mack log truck on FM 2782 when he pulled into the southbound lane of Highway 59 and cut right in front of Perez's car. The Diboll man was killed instantly.
During the first day of testimony, prosecutor Andrew Jones called Texas Department of Public Safety Trooper John Riggins to the stand first, and he explained a crash team came out and took over the scene after the fatal accident.
Winfred Simmons, the defense attorney, asked Riggins if it was possible that Perez' car hit Bryant's truck.
"This car was going directly straight and not coming across," Riggins said.
At that point, Simmons asked if it was his decision to make this a criminal case.
"He was negligent, ran the stop sign, and killed someone. That's why I went with negligent homicide," Riggins said.
The next trooper to take the stand said there were several violations by Bryant including nine tire violations, break violations, overweight load, suspension broken, and two tail light violations.
The trooper says there were 29 violations total, and Bryant was not even allowed on the road.
"Does that mean Bryant could not stop his truck?" Simmons asked.
The trooper replied that only Bryant knows if in that moment he could stop the truck or not.
The next to take the stand was trooper Brian Henry.
Simmons asked him if it's possible that Perez pulled into the lane, had a medical issue that caused him to be inattentive as Bryant made the turn on Highway 59.
"If Bryant was speeding, driving a powerful truck, and making a turn at a T angle, isn't it possible that his truck would have flipped over?" Simmons asked Henry.
Henry agrees that there are a variety of things that could have happened before the collision.
Simmons argued that there is no way to determine who was at fault in the accident.
Texas Ranger Brian Brazil took the stand next. While he was on the stand, the Jones played an interview between Brazil and the defendant.
In the interview, the defendant said a Mr. McGowan was responsible for the truck and did a good job of keeping it up. They then went into detail on the accident. Bryant said he was in no rush at the stop sign in the interview.
"There was no traffic for about half of a mile," Bryant said in the recording.
During the interview, Bryant said, "There are a lot of questions left unanswered. No disrespect to his family because I'm not that type of person."
Bryant said in the interview if he had seen an 18-wheeler coming, he would have gotten into the other lane.
"If not that, I would have at least gotten on my brakes. There were no skid marks," Bryant said.
During the recorded interview, Bryant started to get emotional and break down. It was a tough thing to deal with, he said.
"People are calling and bashing me," Bryant said. "I'm over here trying to type up a letter of grief for his family."
Bryant said he voluntarily went to take a drug and alcohol test.
Robin White, a crash expert, took the stand next. He says he was hired to reconstruct the crash.
White mentioned a device called an ECM, which holds a record of movement, triggers, speed etc. He said his investigation revealed that Bryant never stopped at the stop sign.
Simmons then asked him about the timing on the ECM. White says the time and dates drift on the ECM.
"How can we rely on a device that doesn't show accurate times and dates?" Simmons asked.