DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM/AP) — Former Dallas Cowboys defensive tackle Josh Brent’s case in a fatal wreck that left his close friend and teammate dead will soon head to a jury, after his attorneys finished their case in one day, arguing again that he wasn’t drunk during the crash.
Brent’s defense called several witnesses Friday to make the case they laid out from the very beginning: The blood tests implicating him for drinking were wrong, and photos and video of him appearing to be drunk are misleading. Brent’s lead attorney, George Milner, rested his case Friday afternoon, and lead prosecutor Heath Harris said his case was finished shortly afterward.
If convicted of intoxication manslaughter or manslaughter, Brent could get anywhere from probation to 20 years in prison.
The December 2012 wreck, on the Highway 183 frontage road in Irving, killed Jerry Brown, a practice squad linebacker who played football with Brent at the University of Illinois. Milner has argued that his client was guilty of poor judgment and bad driving, but not of causing the crash by drinking beforehand.
Laboratory expert Janine Arvizu sought to poke holes in a key part of the prosecution’s case — the blood tests that showed Brent to have a blood-alcohol level of 0.189 percent, more than twice the legal limit. A toxicologist estimated the 320-pound Brent would have had to have 17 drinks to get that drunk.
But Arvizu accused the Dallas County crime lab of using potentially spoiled fluid to process Brent’s blood samples, something she compared to a person drinking milk past its expiration date.
“Just because a result is precise doesn’t mean it’s accurate,” Arvizu said.
Judge Robert Burns would not let her testify about other problems she identified with the crime lab, calling them “pure speculation.”
A waitress at the Dallas nightclub where Brent, Brown and other Cowboys players visited that night testified that the club served water in bottles that looked like Champagne — part of Milner’s argument that security video of Brent holding the bottles might not have meant he was drinking alcohol.
Milner also argued Brent wasn’t a skilled driver and could have caused the wreck without being affected by liquor. Aya Matsuda, a restaurateur and close friend of Brent’s, recalled giving him rides to practice after finding out that he was taking the bus because he didn’t have a car.
Asked about his drinking at the nightclub, Matsuda said: “He didn’t have a single drink in his hand the whole, entire night.”
But Irving Police Officer James Fairbairn, under questioning by Milner, said Brent swerved and caused the wreck after initially hitting a curb because he was under the influence.
“Had he not been intoxicated, he probably never would have ended up at that point,” Fairbairn said.
The trial so far has taken a week. With the prosecution and defense both wrapping up their cases, the closely watched trial that’s included testimony from two Cowboys players could finish sooner than the two weeks originally expected.
Closing arguments are expected to begin Tuesday.
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