Ex-Dallas Cowboy Brent Found Guilty of Intoxication Manslaughter

A unanimous Dallas County jury, after deliberating for 10 hours, found former defensive tackle Josh Brent guilty of intoxication manslaughter late this afternoon.

Brent was driving at a speed estimated at 110 mph in a 45 mph zone when he crashed his Mercedes in Irving in December of 2012. He killedhis best friend and teammate Jerry Brown Jr. Brown, who was apparently the designated driver, was thrown on top of Brent, saving his life. Neither man was wearing a seat belt.

When the jury was out so long, I was concerned that at least one juror would hold out, possibly in awe of the defendant having played for “America’s Team” or bamboozled by the defense lawyers’ desperate arguments. As a prosecutor told the jury, “Their whole defense is deception.”

The punishment phase begins tomorrow morning. Brent could be jailed for up to 20 years but could also be given probation. (Let’s hope that doesn’t happen again.) The jury will no doubt be reminded repeatedly by the prosecution that Brent was convicted of DWI in 2009.

The DA’s office contended that Brent, who weighs 320 pounds, consumed an astonishing 17 drinks that night. Prosecutors introduced testimony and evidence from waitresses, videotape, and credit card receipts from the private nightclub and fancy restaurant where he and other Cowboys were partying to prove its point.

The defense attorneys of course attacked the reliablity of the breathalyzer and the blood alcohol content (BAC) readings. Brent was found to have a BAC of .18%, more than two times the legal limit of .08%.

Prosecutor Jason Hermus stood in front of Brent during his closing argument yesterday, banged the table,and shouted, “They shouldn’t be driving, no exceptions, no excuses!” In the photograph, he pretended to be chugging from a bottle of cognac that was found in the Mercedes.

I heartily agree. How can our society often be so blase when it comes to DWI’s? Why is getting plastered considered something to be proud of? Why does almost every other country in the world have a BAC level far lower than ours, and why do 21 countries, including Canada, not permit any alcohol to be in a driver’s system? Why did we allow a driver to have a BAC of .15% not so long ago?

Fortunately the sentencing of Brent will not end his legal proceedings. The victim’s mother and father may have felt some vindication today, but a guilty verdict had to have been expected. That did not do anything except send this criminal to jail, where he obviously belongs. The parents have each filed lawsuits for their tremendous emotional and possibly financial damages and I wish them Godspeed in obtaining large verdicts or settlements so that Brent is further punished.

Victims of intoxicated or drugged drivers have the right to pursue civil cases to recover compensation for injuries and losses caused by these DWI accidents. After all, In crashes involving catastrophic injury or death, lawsuits are often the only way to free the surviving family members from the devastating economic hardship they must now cope with.

At the Berenson Law Offices, our Texas personal injury lawyers can investigate a DWI or DUI collision quickly and determine if there is some available remedy and help you or your loved ones pursue compensation for your losses.

I have followed this tragic story closely. I hate drivers who choose to drive drunk and injure and kill innocent victims. It is a big part of my practice, I heartily support MADD, and I have blogged repeatedly about the dangers of drinking while driving. Over 100 other blog posts about DWI cases are here.

Let’s all hope the Dallas jury sends a strong message to the world, especially to our young people. Let’s pray for the maximum sentence so we can reduce — and hopefully stop — the routine carnage on our highways. Let’s let our Cowboys be heroes. Let’s stop the madness. Let our professional athletes inspire us, not kill us.

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