The Palestine Herald, Palestine, Texas

February 15, 2014

Gray, 19, found guilty of manslaughter in trial

By MARY RAINWATER
Palestine Herald-Press

PALESTINE —

After almost two hours of deliberations, a six-man, six-woman jury found 19-year-old Haden Blaine Gray guilty of manslaughter Friday morning for the death of a 17-year-old Elkhart girl in a one-vehicle car crash in November 2012.

Gray was accused of driving intoxicated and causing the death of Cheyenne Franklin, a junior at Elkhart High School, in a one-vehicle wreck which occurred at about 3:30 a.m. on Saturday, Nov. 17, 2012.

The jury began hearing arguments from the state on Tuesday afternoon, with the state and defense both resting their cases at about 3 p.m. on Thursday.

To begin Friday, the formal charge was read by presiding 87th District Court Judge Deborah Oakes Evans, followed by the presentation of closing arguments from First Assistant District Attorney Stanley Sokolowski, representing the state, and attorney Dan Scarbrough for the defense.

The jury was given three verdict options — to find Gray guilty or not guilty of intoxication manslaughter, guilty or not guilty of manslaughter or guilty or not guilty of criminally negligent homicide.

The jury began deliberations at about 10:30 a.m. and concluded at about 12:30 p.m. Friday, when they announced the verdict to the court.

In closing arguments, Sokolowski remind the jury that they were the “exclusive judges of the facts in the case,” and that is was their job to consider only the evidence admitted by the judge and presented in testimony.

“You heard from Eduardo Padilla, the lab technician from the DPS lab, that Gray's blood showed at BAC (blood-alcohol content) of .077 about an hour after the accident,” Sokolowski said. “Further evidence of his intoxication was shown in his poor decision making — his decision to hide from the cops (prior to the wreck).

“We know that they hid from the cops, that they threw beer from the vehicle, that Gray failed to brake,” he added. “This isn't an accident. An accident implies there is nothing one can do to prevent it. This is a wreck.”

Sokolowski also pointed out that there was no evidence of mechanical failure or any kind of recall on the vehicle, as alluded to by the defense.

“Because of his intoxication, he caused the death of Cheyenne Franklin,” he said.

In his closing argument, Scarbrough spoke to the jury about burden of proof, reminding them that it had the sole responsibility of the state to provide enough evidence to convict (or not) the defendant.

He pointed out the inaccuracies that can come from blood-alcohol testing as well as the method by which information was taken for his client's Miranda Warning report, also reminding the jury of the emotional issues surrounding the case.

“It is scientifically impossible to tell where Mr. Gray's blood-alcohol level was at the time or prior to the crash,” Scarbrough said. “Padilla didn't even perform the blood test, he only testified as to the results.

“Gray's injuries were not documented on the report,” the attorney added. “Trooper Lynn Hubert claims that he wrote down exactly what Gray said to him, asking if he was intoxicated after he had been told since the crash that he was.

“It is a terrible thing — a very emotional thing for the families on both sides,” he said. “But it is not your job to judge emotion, but what the state proves beyond a reasonable doubt.”

The final phase of the trial, the punishment phase, began at about 2:15 p.m. Friday. And after hearing just under six hours of testimony, the jury entered deliberations for that phase at about 8 p.m. Friday.

(Note: Due to Herald-Press deadlines, the sentencing verdict could not be published in this issue, but will be made available online and in a future printed edition of the newspaper.)

Testifying for the state during punishment were Texas Department of Public Safety Sgt. Philip Davis, who knew the family and told them of Franklin's death; Franklin's two sisters, Hope and Faith; and her parents, Curtis “Beaver” and Lana Franklin.

The defense brought 10 witnesses to the stand, including Gray's parents, grandparents, siblings and other family and friends, as well as Gray's bond supervisor and Gray himself, to testify as to the defendant's character and to plea to the jury to be lenient in the young man's punishment.

The jury options in Gray's punishment were to sentence him to 2 to 20 years in prison (he would be eligible for parole after serving half of that sentence) and/or a fine not to exceed $10,000; or community supervision (parole), which was requested by the defense.