DALLAS (AP) — Jurors on Tuesday began deliberating the intoxication manslaughter case against former Dallas Cowboys player Josh Brent, who is accused of drunkenly crashing his car during a night out and killing his passenger, who was a close friend and teammate.
The jury got the case after lawyers delivered their closing arguments to a packed courtroom. Among those watching were Stacey Jackson, whose son Jerry Brown was killed in the December 2012 wreck, and Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee. Jackson has publicly forgiven Brent, whose sentence could range from probation to 20 years in prison if he is convicted.
Brent and Brown, a linebacker on the Cowboys’ practice squad who also played with Brent at the University of Illinois, were headed home from a nightclub where they had been partying with fellow Cowboys when Brent lost control of his Mercedes, causing a fiery accident. Officers who arrived on scene said Brent was seen trying to pull Brown’s body from the wreckage.
Prosecutors say Brent was driving as fast as 110 mph at the time of the crash and that blood tests showed his blood alcohol content was 0.18 percent, which is more than twice Texas’ legal limit to drive of 0.08 percent. Prosecutors allege that the burly, 320-pound defensive tackle had as many as 17 drinks on the night of the crash.
Brent’s attorneys contend that the blood tests used by police were faulty and that Brent couldn’t have drunk nearly that much alcohol.
Prosecutors Jason Hermus and Heath Harris called on the jury Tuesday to send a message about the serious nature of Brent’s alleged crime, saying drunken drivers put the public in danger.
Hermus stood in front of Brent, hit the table and shouted: “They shouldn’t be driving, no exceptions, no excuses!”
Hermus replayed police dash cam video of Brent losing his balance and stumbling as he tried to walk in a straight line. He referenced footage of Brent telling an Irving police officer that he was “buzzed” and nightclub security video that appears to show Brent holding up two bottles of Champagne.
“You can see with your own eyes, time and time and time again, that he is not normal,” Hermus said.
Harris held up an undamaged glass bottle of unopened Cognac found in the wrecked Mercedes. He stood next to Brent, raised the bottle as if to chug from it and told jurors that on that night, Brent was “in the club, turning it up.”
“This is almost like a poster child case for intoxication manslaughter,” Harris said.
Brent’s attorneys argued that prosecutors were misleading the jury. They cited a defense expert’s testimony that the Dallas County crime lab had used expired fluid to process Brent’s blood and came up with an incorrect result.
“In the history of mankind, there has never been created such a thing as an infallible machine,” defense attorney Kevin Brooks said. “It doesn’t exist. Has never existed. Planes crash. Computers don’t boot up. Cars stop running.”
George Milner, another of Brent’s attorneys, told jurors they had sworn at the start to keep an open mind about the case and called on them to remain skeptical and acquit Brent.
“You will not then be able to go back in time and correct a mistake if you make it now,” Milner said. “There is no going back in time.”
(AP Photo: Former Dallas Cowboys NFL football player Josh Brent gets a hug from family after closing arguments in his intoxication manslaughter trial Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2014, in Dallas.)