EDNA — A district court judge found a man guilty of intoxication manslaughter Friday, handing down a 60-year sentence for the 2019 death of a 12-year-old Ganado boy.
The verdict was issued for Brian Gunter, 46, who was accused of recklessly crashing his pickup at nearly double the posted speed limit into an SUV occupied by 12-year-old LaMarquis Lee and his grandmother on Oct. 29, 2019.
That day, LaMarquis had finished football practice and was traveling in the SUV to his father’s home in Ganado. While driving, LaMarquis’ grandmother attempted to turn left near the intersection of East York and Brown streets in Ganado when the SUV, a Toyota Highlander, was struck by Gunter’s Dodge Ram pickup. The impact ejected LaMarquis from the SUV and into a ditch in front of his father’s home, where he would later be pronounced dead.
Gunter was found guilty of intoxicated manslaughter, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, aggravated assault causing serious bodily injury, causing reckless injury to a child and endangering a child. Gunter was sentenced to 60 years in prison by District Judge Bobby Bell.
Bell determined guilt and assessed the punishment at the agreement of prosecutors and Gunter’s defense attorney, Boyd Shepherd, of Houston, in lieu of a jury of Jackson County residents.
Bell heard testimony from family members of LaMarquis and Gunter and law enforcement officials over the four days of trial.
During closing arguments, Assistant District Attorney Stephen Tyler, who prosecuted the case, detailed data retrieved from the black box of Gunter’s pickup. The data showed Gunter was traveling up to 99 mph before the crash and that he had disengaged the accelerator and engaged his brakes too late to avoid the collision. Tyler attributed Gunter’s delayed response time to his level of intoxication at the time of the crash.
One hour after the crash, authorities obtained a warrant to draw Gunter’s blood and found his blood alcohol content was 0.129. The legal limit in Texas is 0.08.
Rebutting Tyler, Shepherd recounted testimony from LaMarquis’ grandmother, who was driving during the crash. She testified she removed her glasses just moments before the crash — which he said contributed to the collision, Shepherd said.
Tyler said she, instead, removed her glasses because she was a short distance from turning into the driveway of LaMarquis’ father’s home. Regardless, Tyler said it wouldn’t have changed anything because of the high speed Gunter was traveling.
“It’s literally looking up to see a bullet coming at your head, and the defense is saying ‘You should’ve dodged,’” Tyler said. “That is a red herring.”
Shepherd also pointed to the reports by law enforcement, which were unable to say definitively whether LaMarquis was wearing a seat belt.
However, the impact was so powerful, Tyler said, that it wouldn’t have mattered whether LaMarquis had a seat belt on or not. The part of the vehicle housing the seat belt, he said, was found 200 feet away from where the crash took place.
“The energy (of the impact) all transferred to where that young man was sitting. There was no surviving that,” Tyler said. “There is no more selfish, self-centered a crime than intoxication manslaughter. You don’t have to drink. You can get a ride. You can get in your car and sleep it off ... If you do drive, why on earth would you drive 100 miles an hour? Well, you would if everyone else on the road matters not to you.”
After the impact and as LaMarquis’ father came out of the house and cried over his son’s body, Tyler said Gunter approached and began berating LaMarquis’ grandmother. Gunter said LaMarquis’ grandmother was intoxicated — although she would later undergo a breathalyzer test that showed she was not — and directed racial pejoratives at her.
“(He) so belittled someone over their dead son … There is something more than criminality there. That is pure mania, and it is wicked. I don’t know how to charge it, but it should be considered,” Tyler said, addressing Bell. Tyler asked Bell to give Gunter the maximum 99-year sentence — which Gunter was subject to due to previous convictions that enhanced the indicted offenses — for the death of LaMarquis.
Gunter, who invoked his right not to testify during the proceedings, raised his hand to speak after the verdict. However, Bell denied him, stating there was no legal right for him to speak at that time.
After Bell handed down the 60-year sentence, LaMarquis’ mother gave a victim impact statement and addressed Gunter. She said he son was a great influence on her life and others and that she would never recover from the loss of her son.
“Mr. Gunter’s selfish decision forever changed my life for the worse that night,” she said through tears. “He has robbed me of seeing my son grow up.”
After the family and friends of LaMarquis left the courtroom, Gunter, talking to his attorney, raised his hand to express his regret for the situation.
“I’d die for him to come back,” Gunter told Shepherd.
Shepherd declined to comment on the verdict or the sentence for fear of impacting a potential appeal Gunter could request. However, he expressed his condolences to the Lee family and thanked law enforcement officials for their time committed to the case.
Gunter was then taken to the Jackson County Jail, where he will await transport to a Texas Department of Criminal Justice prison.
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Source : https://www.victoriaadvocate.com/premium/updated-man-given-60-years-for-causing-crash-that-killed-12-year-old-ganado-boy/article_62a87d08-7575-11ec-98e1-c37cdc64d9a2.html959