Both sides rest in Texas trial over South By Southwest crash

AP News
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Posted: Nov 05, 2015 5:17 PM

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Both sides rested their cases Thursday as the trial of a driver accused in a deadly crash at last year's South By Southwest festival in Austin moved closer to going to the jury.

Rashad Owens faces capital murder and murder counts over the March 2014 accident in which a car plowed into a downtown crowd, killing four people. Prosecutors say Owens was drunk and fled to avoid a traffic stop.

Owens did not testify and the defense rested Thursday without calling any witnesses. His lawyers insist he never intended to hurt anyone.

The final prosecution witness was Austin police Detective Richard Harrington, a crash reconstruction expert. He testified that surveillance footage captured Owens' car traveling at about 55 mph as he fled from a police traffic stop and approached the festival crowd.

Harrington said the black box on Owens' car showed he then slowed to 40 mph, possibly due to braking or hitting festival pedestrians. Steven Craenmehr, Jamie West, Sandy Le and De'andre Tatum were killed and others were injured.

Closing arguments are Friday. If convicted, the 23-year-old Killeen man could face life in prison without parole. Prosecutors aren't seeking the death penalty.

Owens also faces trial on 24 counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon related to the people who were injured in the crash.

On Wednesday, the Travis County jury watched police video of Owens sobbing, wailing, praying and refusing to cooperate with field sobriety tests.

At one point, while seated in the back seat of a police patrol car, Owens whispered over and over to himself, "Please, God; please, God; please god; please God. Please don't let anybody die."

At one point, he cried out to a nearby officer, "Sir, all I care about is me not killing nobody. I didn't mean to hurt nobody. I was just scared. I didn't mean to."