Closing arguments in SXSW fatal crash trial will begin Friday

AUSTIN, Texas— Closing arguments will be held Friday morning in the Rashad Owens case, who is charged with capital murder after a South by Southwest Festival crash that killed four people and injured 25.  In a surprise, testimony finished up Thursday just before noon.

Owens showed little emotion as his capital murder trial came to a close.

The last witness for the prosecution was detective Richard Harrington, who provided his analysis of the deadly March 13, 2014 crash that injured two dozen and killed four.

Sandy Le, Deandre Tatum, Steven Craenmehr and Jamie West all lost their lives. Detective Harrington showed the jury the motorbike West was riding on at the time she and her husband were hit.

"She gets hit from behind. She was tossed back like this, gets thrown on to the hood of the vehicle and into the windshield,” Harrington said.

Using security camera video, Harrington determined Owens was traveling at 55 mph when he passed the entrance of an apartment garage on Red River near Ninth Street.

"He is increasing his speed … pressing harder on the gas,” the detective said.

Harrington made calculations based on information from the computer black box in Owens’ car and from points of impact. According to Harrington, from 10th to 11th street, Owens speed ranged from 39 mph to 53 mph.

"Between the garage point and the intersection, you've got to understand that he's now still in the process of hitting people and now he is confronted with a barricade he has got to drive through," he said.

Harrington also re-set the final collision that Owens had with a cab. He calculated Owens was doing 47 mph when he smashed into the cab at 11th Street. It’s also the only time Harrington found evidence that Owens hit his brakes, according to his investigation. But defense attorney Rickey Jones questioned that argument, asking if it is possible that Owens hit the brakes and Harrington didn't see on the police Dash Cam Video because of all the obstruction.

“I viewed the video just about frame by frame by frame ... I see no evidence of it. Could I be wrong, sure,” Harrington responded.

And with that statement, shortly before noon, both sides rested.

Closing Arguments Friday morning are expected to focus on one word: Intent. How it is defined is critical for the jury, who has to decide if there is enough evidence to convict Owens on a Capital Murder charge. They could also consider a lesser charge. There are at least two parts of the state penal code that may apply to the capital murder charge:

There is a section dealing with the killing of more than one person and another that states that the charge can be used in cases of “intentionally committing the act” in the course of committing several crimes including “obstruction.”  Prosecutors may claim Owens evading of police will satisfy the Capital Murder requirement of proving intent.

But what the jury heard Owens say to police in video recorded after the crash could also determine if he will face a Life Sentence or will get a chance for Parole.

During Wednesday’s testimony, the jury heard audio from the 2014 event. Owens is heard praying the backseat of a patrol car.

"I promise, please god, don’t let nobody die, I don’t want that on my hands, I promise, I don’t mean no harm to nobody I was just scared,” Owens prayed.

Owens’ defense closing arguments on Friday could simply be a re-statement of what his attorney Russell Hunt said at the start of the trial.

"We're not asking for forgiveness for that, we are asking for you to be reasonable, we're asking for you to look at all the evidence and weigh all the evidence fairly” Hunt said. That includes defining and deciding intent. 

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