DALLAS — Former Dallas Cowboys defensive tackle Josh Brent was not drunk, as police contend, when he wrecked his Mercedes in a crash that killed a teammate, Brent’s lawyer told jurors Monday during his opening statement at Brent’s trial.
Brent is charged with intoxication manslaughter in the December 2012 death of his friend and former college teammate, Jerry Brown, who had made the Cowboys’ practice squad that season. If convicted of that charge or of manslaughter, Brent faces up to 20 years in prison.
Police in the Dallas suburb of Irving say blood tests showed that Brent’s blood-alcohol content was more than twice the legal limit after the crash. But Brent’s lawyer, George Milner, signaled that he will try to undermine the state’s assertions that Brent was too drunk to drive on the night of the crash.
Milner argued that the tall, lumbering Brent, who was a 320-pound lineman when he played for the Cowboys, could drink more than the average person without becoming intoxicated.
“Josh Brent is as big as a house,” Milner said. “He’s got a heart — better yet a mind — of a person much younger than he really is.”
Milner also argued that no person could have passed a field sobriety test after the fiery wreck.
“He is guilty of being stupid behind the wheel of a car,” Milner said. “He is guilty of driving too fast.”
Prosecutor Heath Harris described how dash cam video would show Brent failing a field sobriety test after the wreck in suburban Dallas. Harris said receipts would prove that Brent purchased cocktails with several shots of liquor in them and three bottles of Champagne at a night club.
“This is not a difficult case, ladies and gentlemen,” Harris said. “There will be no disputing the fact that he was drinking that night.”
Brent’s attorney has argued his client deserves probation, and Brown’s mother says she has forgiven her son’s college teammate and friend. But prosecutors have made Brent’s case a priority, and it comes on the heels of another well-publicized case in neighboring Tarrant County in which a teenage driver was sentenced to probation in a drunken crash that killed four people.
Brent and Brown were close friends and former teammates at the University of Illinois. Brent was a defensive tackle who had played in all 12 games of the 2012 NFL season. He would retire in July.
Brown was a linebacker who had been signed to the Cowboys’ practice squad that season.
The prosecution showed photos of Brown to the jury, which was seated last week, and described his passion for the game.
“All Jerry ever wanted to do was play football,” Harris said.
Copyright 2014 by The Associated Press