An Austin police sergeant took the stand in the first day of week two in the Intoxication Manslaughter trial of Gabrielle Nestande. The former legislative aide is accused of fatally running over Courtney Griffin in 2011.
Prosecutors are trying to argue that Nestande was driving drunk when she allegedly hit Griffin with her car. However, since they do not know what Nestande's blood alcohol content the night of the accident, prosecutors are relying on circumstantial evidence.
Defense attorneys for Nestande have argued that evidence does not prove intoxication.
Prosecutors say the 30-year-old Griffin was in the bike lane on Exposition Boulevard when an intoxicated Nestande ran into her and left her for dead. However, Nestande's blood alcohol level was never documented.
Instead, prosecutors are relying on bar tabs and surveillance video of Nestande hours before the deadly collision.
Sergeant Michael McCarter with APD's vehicular homicide unit testified that the Clive Bar's surveillance video showed an intoxicated Nestande.
"Toward the end of the night in the video, you can see when she's walking she takes several staggered steps and she's using Mr. Marchbanks for support during a lot of that time near the bar," McCarter testified.
Bar receipts showed Nestande and her friends ordered several alcoholic drinks including shots around 11:20 pm. four hours after she started her tab. Prosecutors said Griffin was hit around 12:30 a.m.
McCarter testified that Nestande's level of intoxication could have been the same or higher an hour after she was observed on the surveillance footage.
During cross examination defense attorney Sam Basset questioned McCarter about that assertion.
"Even in a time where 11 or 12 hours has lapsed , some people still has signs of intoxication if they tied one on the night before, is that right?" Basset asked.
"Yes," McCarter responded.
"Did you notice any signs of intoxication when you were observing Ms. Nestande?"
"I did not."
"You were observing her carefully were you not?"
"Were her eyes bloodshot?"
"Did you smell any alcoholic beverages on her breath?"
"Did you notice that she had any trouble speaking to you or understanding what you were saying?"
Bassett also asked McCarter why, if he was so sure Nestande was intoxicated, she wasn't initially charged with the crime.
"Fact of the matter is you told us that it'd be difficult based on the evidence you had to determine if she was intoxicated?" Bassett asked.
"Yes," McCarter answered.
"Because at the time you were conducting your investigation all the way perhaps up until now, the video, the bar tabs and what you have is difficult to determine intoxication, is it not?" Bassett asked.
"It would be," said McCarter.
Earlier McCarter testified that a driver can see a pedestrian walking on Exposition starting at 622 feet. He told jurors if Nestande was driving the speed limit she would have had 12.9 seconds to travel that distance.
"Is there an average time that a takes for a person to perceive an event and react to it?" asked prosecutor Mary Farrington.
"Yes, the average human perception reaction time is about one and a half seconds," McCarter answered. "Based on the speed of 35 miles an hour and one and a half second perception reaction time, a vehicle will travel about 76-77 feet in the tone and a half second."
Jurors also heard from an accident reconstructionist. The state witness says based on where Griffin's shoe was found, he believes she was walking in the bike lane. However, a defense witness and forensic engineer testified that shoes are a terrible indicator of the area of impact.
Judge Karen Sage says she expects the jury to start deliberating Tuesday. Nestande is also expected to testify Tuesday.