The brutally emotional trial of Samuel Juarez Jr., 35, ended early Thursday afternoon in 35th District Court as District Judge Steve Ellis sentenced Juarez to 20 years in prison for intoxication manslaughter.
Ellis convicted Juarez late Wednesday afternoon for the  Dec. 17, 2016 drunken driving death of 8-year-old Daylan Franklin on Sixth Street in Brownwood. Juarez’s blood alcohol content was .276 — 3 1/2 times the legal limit — when his 1995 Ford Crown Victoria struck Daylan when the boy stepped into the street, according to earlier testimony. Daylan had been playing outside his grandmother’s house with his 5-year-old brother, Trae.
Ellis also made a deadly weapon finding — Juarez’s car.
State sought
murder conviction

District Attorney Micheal Murray sought a murder conviction, saying the felony murder rule applied in the case. The felony murder rule states that a person can be charged with murder for committing a felony other than manslaughter that causes a death, Murray said in his opening statement Tuesday.
Defense attorney Lynn Inglesbe of Abilene said in his opening statement that the accident that killed Daylan was unavoidable and would have happened with or without alcohol.
The state did not meet its burden of proving murder, Ellis ruled Wednesday as he announced Juarez’s manslaughter conviction. The conviction is a second degree felony with a sentencing range of two to 20 years in prison.
Inglesbe said after the trial there were no winners in the case. “My job was to mitigate the damage,” Inglesbe said.
Also speaking after the trial, Murray said, “I would have liked to have seen him be guilty of the murder and receive a higher sentence, but I am certainly happy that the defendant was held accountable for intoxication manslaughter, and did receive the maximum sentence on that.
“I think the family certainly has received a measure of justice in the case. It may not be what they had hoped for, but we feel like we have achieved some justice for Daylan.”

Crowded courtroom

Juarez earlier waived a jury trial. Unlike most trials, witnesses were allowed to remain in the courtroom for the entire trial.
One side of the courtroom was packed with witnesses which mostly included Daylan’s family members and law enforcement officers.
On the other side, Juarez’s mother and stepfather, Rose and Raymundo Sanchez, sat quietly and listened to testimony that sometimes brought loud sobs from Daylan’s family members.

Alcohol-related, PTSD

Juarez was involved in numerous alcohol-related incidents and arrests before Daylan’s death, according to testimony in Thursday’s punishment phase.
Juarez had alcohol issues before joining the military, testimony showed,and Rose Sanchez said her son is an alcoholic who needs help.
Juarez served in the National Guard and deployed twice to Iraq, and was diagnosed by the Veterans Administration with PTSD.
Michael Yeats, a National Guard soldier from Abilene, said he met Juarez when they were soldiers at Fort Hood preparing for the first of two deployments to Iraq.
Yeats said Juarez had alcohol-related incidents, including a fight, before they deployed in 2004. Yeats said he and Juarez served in the same unit and they did not see any major combat or carnage.
The soldiers returned to the United States and deployed again in 2008, Yeats testified. This time, they were not in the same company but in the same area, where no major combat occurred, Yeats said.
Inglesbe suggested through cross-examination of Yeats that Juarez could have seen things that Yeats did not experience, which caused Juarez’s PTSD.
    
‘I can’t live without you’

 Daylan’s mother, Venessa Franklin, told of the moment she learned her son did not survive after being struck by Juarez’s car. That happened when Daylan entered the street while playing outside with his 5-year-old brother, Trae, according to earlier testimony.
Franklin said the family was waiting in a room at Brownwood Regional Medical Center as emergency room medical staff tried for more than an hour to save Daylan’s life.
“Dr. Lyons came in and said ‘we worked on him for over an hour but we couldn’t save him,’” Franklin testified, crying. Franklin said she collapsed, then wrapped her arms around the doctor’s legs and pleaded with him to give Daylan her own heart.
Franklin family members entered the treatment area to see Daylan after he was pronounced dead. “I said ‘Daylan, get up. I can’t live without you,’” Franklin said, sobbing. She said she hugged her son repeatedly, and with each hug, blood poured from his mouth.
“My son was 8 years old,” Franklin said, noting that Juarez’s own child was 8 at the time. “It’s not fair he gets to see his daughter grow up.”

Daylan’s Christmas
presents donated

Instead of preparing to celebrate Christmas, the family had to prepare for Daylan’s funeral, Franklin said. She said Daylan’s Christmas presents were wrapped under the Christmas tree, and the family donated the presents to another child whose mother couldn’t buy any presents.
That’s what the kind-hearted, caring Daylan would have wanted, Franklin said.
Daylan’s younger brother, Trae, has had a difficult time dealing with Daylan’s death and is still missing him, Franklin said. She said Trae has asked, “Why did he fly through the air? Is he going to come home?
“All of this could have been prevented. I’m very angry … I forgive him,” Franklin said, referring to Juarez. “He should still be punished.”
Daylan’s grandmother, Teresa Fell, said Trae has asked if he can go in the street so he can get hit by a car, go to heaven and see his brother.
“My life will never be the same — ever,” Fell said. “I miss him so much. I can’t believe he’s gone.”
        
Judge: State’s
evidence had problems

Juarez was accused by indictment of causing Daylan’s death by driving while intoxicated after having been convicted twice previously for DWI in the Brown County Court-at Law, in 2002 and 2011.
A third DWI conviction would have been a felony, but  Inglesbe challenged the 2011 conviction, in which Juarez was sentenced to 10 days in the Brown County Jail. Inglesbe argued  Wednesday that the conviction is void because the sentence fell below the minimum sentence required by law in a second conviction of DWI.
A second DWI conviction is a Class A misdemeanor with a jail range of 30 to 365 days.
Murray argued that case law did not support Inglesbe’s theory. Case law showed a defendant can’t enjoy the benefits of a light sentence and then complain about the sentence when it no longer benefits him, Murray argued.
Inglesbe also argued that the state had actually presented elements of manslaughter, not murder. Inglesbe said he wasn’t suggesting his client should “walk,” but said Juarez is guilty of DWI and manslaughter, not murder.
Ellis, in announcing his verdict, said a DWI defendant must have two previous convictions before a felony case can go forward.
“That is a void conviction,” Ellis said.

Accident reconstruction

Earlier Wednesday, Texas Department of Public Safety accident reconstruction experts said Juarez’s car left 22 feet of skid marks from the right tires and 19 feet of skid marks from the left tires. Calculations based on the skid marks showed Juarez’s car was traveling 31 mph when he applied the brakes, according to testimony.
Juarez left the scene of the accident and drove to the Eighth Street home of his mother and stepmother.
“He came in and was traumatized, I guess you’d say,” Rose Sanchez said of her son. “He kept rubbing his head and he sank down and he said ‘I think I just ran over a child.’”
Raymundo Sanchez drove to the accident and told Brownwood police Sgt. Stephanie Morgan, “I have something to tell you,” Rose Sanchez testified.
    
Closing arguments,
sentencing

In his closing argument Thursday, Inglesbe said children should not be playing in the street and should be better supervised.
Assistant District Attorney Elisha Bird said in her closing argument that there is nothing about PTSD that causes someone to drink and drive.
“This is going to result in PTSD for a lot of people, including Vanessa Franklin,” Bird said, emphasizing that Franklin had wiped blood off her son’s face as she hugged him in the emergency room.
A 20-year sentence means Juarez will be eligible for parole around the time Daylan would have graduated from high school, Bird said.
As Ellis prepared to announce the sentence, he addressed Juarez.
“You were intoxicated — the evidence shows that,” Ellis said Thursday as he prepared to sentence Juarez. “You did voluntarily get intoxicated. You didn’t intend to kill Daylan, but the fact remains, you did.
“There was an 8-year-old boy who will never live to be 9. He will always be 8 in the memory of his family. I hope you get help in prison, because that’s where you’re going to go, and you’re going to go there for 20 years.”
Ellis asked if a family member wanted to address Juarez, and Daylan’s uncle, Roland Fell, stepped forward. “You took somebody very special from us we’ll never see again,” Fell said, breaking into tears. “I will never get to see my nephew walk across that stage and get to be somebody because that was taken from us.”