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Wrecked car takes center stage in sentencing trial of drunk driver

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Jurors took a dramatic trip out of the courtroom in the Johoan Rodriguez case. Rodriguez has admitted to driving drunk when he hit and killed Houston Police Officer Kevin Will. Now jurors saw his car for the first time.

The jurors walked slowly around the car, looking at the damage. We counted at least three of them shaking their heads as in disbelief.

They saw the Volkswagen Beetle which struck and killed Officer Will in May 2011 on the North Loop. The extensive damage was made only by Will's body. Prosecutors say the car hit nothing else.

Prosecutor Catherine Evans said, "It is simply something you cannot appreciate by looking at pictures, just how severe the damage was, just how fast and how hard an impact it was."

It's a display fought unsuccessfully by the attorney for Rodriguez, the admitted drunk driver. Inside the vehicle, still sitting on the front seat is case of beer.

Defense attorney Rick Detoto said, "Obviously we objected to it. We think it's... The photographs in the trial have shown the damage to the extent that it is."

The sheer force of the impact severed Officer Will's legs. He endured severe head and neck injuries. Investigators say the Volkswagen was traveling at upwards of 90 miles per hour.

Rodriguez pleaded guilty to intoxication manslaughter. His blood alcohol level was .19 nearly two hours after the wreck. Experts testified it may have been as much as three times the legal limit at the time of the crash.

Officer Will was on the job, investigating another wreck when he was killed. Investigators say Rodriguez was fleeing from police when he collided with Will. Rodriguez had driven around a police barricade to get on that section of roadway.

The jury only must decide punishment in this case, which ranges anywhere from probation to life in prison.

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houston police department, local, kevin quinn
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