Jurors were sent home Thursday in the early afternoon. A lot of testimony occurred on day four of the Billy Abraham intoxication manslaughter trial, but it was a short day nonetheless.
Abraham faces one charge of intoxicated manslaughter. Investigators say he was behind the wheel of his Sierra pickup truck when Jay Grady, 47, was struck and killed in 2010.
The first several hours of Thursday’s testimony surrounded Dr. Rodriguez. Rodriguez was hired by the defense to perform a psychological autopsy on Grady. Grady, who died a homeless man, matched 17 of the 19 suicidal risk factors, according to Rodriguez.
When asked whether he believed that Grady committed suicide by walking in front of Abraham’s pickup truck in 2010, he responded, “With a reasonable degree of medical certainty, yes.”
Assistant District Attorney Denise Butterworth questioned the ability of the witness to judge a dead man’s mental state, at one point drawing an objection from the defense when she stated that in 14 years as a prosecutor she’d never heard of a pyschological autopsy being used in a trial. It caused a stir; in fact, defense attorney Dick DeGuerin seemed quite upset. Judge Patrick Garcia reminded jurors, at the defense’s urging, that attorneys do not testify in the case and that her words were to be forgotten.
It didn’t take long for her to stir the defense again. During Rodriguez’s testimony, multiple criminal charges against Grady popped up. During cross-examination Butterworth noted that Grady was homeless, and that it wasn’t uncommon for urinating in public or public intoxicated charges to be leveled against a homeless man. Eventually she quipped, "(It’s) safe to say he didn't have any family money to fight these charges."
Abraham is the son of Sib Abraham, a prominent defense attorney. Billy Abraham owns many buildings in the downtown area. DeGuerin appeared livid at the comment and objected, even moving for a mistrial. The judge did not grant the mistrial.
Within 20 minutes, Butterworth made a second comment that caused the defense to move for a mistrial again. That motion was also denied.
Another key piece of evidence was rejected by Judge Garcia. A letter from the victim’s wife to the district attorney’s office was deemed hearsay, thus inadmissable. However, he allowed a partial reading of the letter into the record as part of testimony when DeGuerin recalled the doctor.
The letter, written by Grady’s wife, had information about Grady’s history with alcohol, substance abuse and state of mind near the end of his life. It also painted him as a caring man; however, parts of the letter were blocked from the record. Jurors were only read a portion that stated Grady’s history with drugs and alcoholism.
What jurors didn't see was a portion of the letter that stated: "My husband was always so depressed when he drank alcohol he really did not want to live. He felt badly because he could not support me or his family because his addiction."
The defense rested after the doctor's testimony. It moved for a directed judgement from the judge, meaning he would dismiss charges. DeGuerin and his co-defense attorney, argued that the state had not met the burden of proof. The judge dismissed the request.
Jurors were sent home as lawyers debated what charges, or orders, will be given to jurors on how to determine the facts of the case. Jurors are set to return to the courthouse on Friday at 8:30 a.m. At that time, they will be given information about how to view the case ahead of closing arguments.
Both sides have admitted there is a possibility that the case would stretch into Saturday if jurors do not deliberate fast enough. The judge has stated he will not give that information to jurors, as it could cause them to rush a judgment.
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