News of a Matt Vaglica's mistrial prompted Shannon Curtis, one of four victims in the intoxicated assault, burst out of the courtroom in anger. Curtis expressed adamantly, " The next person that's out on the road and gets killed by a drunk driver, that is why, because of our judicial system does not support the victim. They only support the offender. " Curtis further commented that Vaglica was a grown man, not a child. She then left the courthouse, with the door slamming behind her.
Right behind her, came her husband, Deputy Sheriff Ben Curtis. He's consoled his wife throughout the trial. This day would be no different. Curtis said, " I'm not so sure that she's angry with the judicial system. I think she's just angry with the steps it takes to get something done. "
The couple received horrendous injuries in a head on collision involving a sheriff's department squad car and Vaglica's SUV. Vaglica passed another vehicle in a no passing zone. The injuries leave them to this day in pain and misery. Each one had multiple broken bones that prevented them from caring for their three children, disrupted jobs and put them in a financial bind. Two of Vaglica's friends were also seriously injured. Vaglica himself had broken ankles. The almost 24 year old expressed remorse and pleaded guilty to his crime. He has a record of wreckless driving and drinking. He wants probation, claiming he is a changed man who is more responsible and mature.
After 8 hours of deliberation and a night to contemplate their decision, the jury was deadlocked 10-1-1. They had many options on each of the four counts. Punishment ranged from two years probation to ten years in prison on each offense. The judge has the option of stacking the punishment, but that wasn't revealed to the jury.
Defense attorney John Heath Jr. said, " No one knows what 10,1,1 means. There are three possible verdicts choices and I assume that's that. " Only the jury knows. They would not reveal it as they exited the courtroom. Jury foreman Brian Bray later said ten people thought one way, one juror another and one juror another. He shared that at the beginning of deliberation there was a four way split for significant jail time to no jail time at all.
District Attorney Stephanie Stephens commends the jury's hard work, but is ready to select another. ' It was a very, very serious case and it's a case that the people in Nacogdoches need to make a decision on. "
Jurors internalized the agony for all parties involved. Juror Helen Whitehead said, " I guess we've done so much soul searching that right now I just want to go home and forget it for a while. "
This is something Matt Vaglica can't do. He possibly has another six months of waiting for his fate. The Curtis' face the same possible trial. Doing it all over again will be difficult. Ben Curtis said, " It won't be as near as bad as what we've gone through for the last 18 months. "