The trial of a Texoma woman who admitted to killing her younger brother in a 2010 drunk driving accident is over. A jury of 6 men and 6 women recommended a 3 year prison sentence which the judge accepted.
Elizabeth Monnique Duerson is free on an appeals bond under several strict conditions. If she violates any of them, the appeals bond will be revoked and her prison sentence will begin. On Tuesday she entered a guilty plea after admitting she climbed behind the wheel, drunk in January of 2010 with her brother Billy Crow in the passenger seat. The guilty plea meant the jury only had to recommend punishment.
On Wednesday the defense team called Duerson's bother, sister, mother, sister-in-law and several friends to testify on her behalf. Her brother's widow testified about the initial hatred she felt when she found out Elizabeth was drunk and driving the car when it crashed. Billy's widow went on to describe how she eventually forgave Duerson and how she was now her son's favorite aunt.
Witness after witness testified about Duerson's relationship with her nieces, nephews and her own children, calling her a great mother, aunt and friend. The defense painted her as a woman who had been changed forever and was now doing the best she could.
Elizabeth Duerson herself took the stand in the late morning. When asked about the accident she testified that she tried to slow down but the car just kept going faster. Duerson recalled what little she remembered from the moments before the crash through painful sobs. She said, "We just looked at each other and he was gone, he flew away."
Her tearful testimony continued for more than an hour as the prosecution challenged her on why she was going so fast. Despite repeatedly claiming responsibility, the prosecution pointed out she was trying to blame the car for the crash.
During closing arguments the prosecution reminded the jury that Duerson put more than just her brother's life at risk when she was out on the road. Assistant District Attorney John Gillespie said she had a blatant disregard for the lives of any other drivers on Kemp that night.
The defense said the jury would be doing a disservice to Duerson's children and the community she had become a part of by sending her to prison. Her attorney said sending her to prison goes against everything our hearts and minds tell us.
The jury began deliberations just before 3:30 and returned their verdict just after 5 p.m.
Duerson's car hopped the median on Kemp Boulevard in the early hours of January 21, 2010. The car struck several trees and a light pole and threw her brother out of the car. The car split in two and left a trail of debris that covered 2 blocks.
A Crash Reconstructionist with the Wichita Falls Police Department estimated Duerson was traveling at a minimum of 73 miles per hour when she crashed, though said it could have been as fast as 90 mph
A forensic scientist also testified about the defendant's blood alcohol content which was recorded at .19, 2 hours after the crash. The expert witness said Duerson's blood alcohol content was likely already on its way down when doctors drew blood, meaning it could have been even higher.
The defense team was quick to point out that the scientist was using a generalized calculation that used a range of possibilities. She testified it would have taken a 120 lb woman 5-9 drinks to reach .19 in the given time frame, but admitted there was a +/- of one drink, so it could have been as few as 4.