Bobby Lee Newman, 28, has been charged with homicide by vehicle, serious injury by vehicle, driving under the influence and making a false statement to a police officer. Todd Allyn Goddard, 27, of Temple died as a result of the February 2012 accident.
Newman’s lawyer, Carrollton attorney Jason Swindle, said the central issue of the case is not who was drinking, but who was driving the car at the time of the accident.
During his closing argument, Swindle pointed out what he thought could be origins of reasonable doubt for the jurors, including the lack of forensic evidence and the testimony from Brandon Lee Newman, the defendant’s brother.
“Have we put him in the driver’s seat?” Swindle said, pointing to Newman. “That’s what it all boils down to.”
Swindle said he stood by the statement he made in his opening statement that the state is “not going to come close to proving” that Newman was driving.
Assistant District Attorney Vincent Faucette disagreed, saying in his closing argument that the state had proven that Newman was driving via two avenues — the testimony of fellow passenger Christopher Allen Nestick and description of Newman’s actions after the accident.
“The only people who could tell us who got in that vehicle that night have told us,” Faucette said. “And that’s Nestick, who’s told us, and Bobby, who’s told us through his actions.”
Witnesses testified that Newman had seemed chiefly concerned with leaving the scene of the crash instead of helping the men he was riding with, who were all injured.
In the early morning hours of Feb. 18, 2012, four men, including Newman and Goddard, were traveling north on Center Point Road in a 1994 Ford Probe, a car belonging to Goddard’s younger brother.
While driving, the car left the roadway, struck a ditch and overturned before resting on the side of the road. None of the four men were found to be wearing seat belts at the time of the accident.
Newman and another passenger, 24-year-old Richard Christopher Evans of Temple, were ejected as the car overturned. Both Newman and Evans had been seated on the car’s driver side, Faucette said.
Goddard, Faucette said, was sitting in the front passenger seat. Fellow passenger Christopher Allen Nestick, 26, of Villa Rica, who testified Wednesday, was flown to Atlanta Medical Center for treatment.
Faucette told the jury that Newman had made a false statement to the responding officer, Georgia State Trooper First Class Nicholas Moore, when he said that he was not involved in the accident, but had been riding down the road when he saw the crashed car and got out to help.
That false statement, Faucette said, is the basis for Newman’s fourth charge.
Nestick testified on Wednesday that he had fallen asleep 10 minutes into the car ride home from the Carrollton bar and grill T.C. Rose. Nestick said he woke up after the accident had taken place.
Swindle told the jurors during his closing argument that it was therefore unknown who was driving at the time of the accident.
“The facts and the evidence are not on the side of the state,” Swindle said.
The state called Dr. Keith Lehman, a forensic pathologist for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, who performed the autopsy on Goddard.
Several photos of Goddard’s autopsy were published before the jury, with Swindle asking if a particular bruise on Goddard’s face could have been made from an impact with the car’s steering wheel. Swindle asked if the bruises on Goddard’s cheeks and nose were a semi-circle, like a bruise that may result from hitting the steering wheel in an accident.
The medical examiner said the bruising on the face is “roughly semi-circular,” but said the bruises didn’t line up to show that they made a perfect half-circle.
The defense called Brandon Newman, the defendant’s brother, who said it was not Goddard’s habit to let anyone drive a car without permission.
The jurors also heard from Kayla Newman, Brandon’s wife, who Swindle said corroborated Brandon’s testimony. Kayla Newman said that Todd Goddard had told her that he was going to give Bobby Lee Newman and everyone else a ride home.
The jurors also heard from Amy Reeves, an emergency medical technician called to the scene, and Christopher Evans, the fourth passenger of the vehicle. Evans, who spent two months in the hospital after the accident, suffered brain injuries, which affected his speech and motor skills.
Both were called by the state, which called a total of 10 witnesses during the two-day presentation of evidence. The defense called two witnesses.
Newman was found to have a blood alcohol content of 0.13 several hours after the accident. During the autopsy, Goddard was found to have a BAC of 0.158. The legal driving limit is 0.08.
Swindle said he did not feel the need to call his client to the witness stand because the state’s “case was so weak.”
More than a dozen friends and family members of the deceased were present for the trial on Thursday, as well as half-a-dozen friends and family members of the defendant.
The jury is set to reconvene at 9 a.m. today, with Judge Aubrey Duffey charging the jury and allowing the jurors to deliberate.