Judge declares mistrial in sentencing phase of DWI trial after defendant becomes ill

STEVE NASH steve.nash@brownwoodbulletin.com
DWI trial

Brenda Kay Holland's 10th drunken driving conviction will stand, but her punishment will be decided another day.

District Judge Steve Ellis declared a mistrial Thursday afternoon in the punishment portion of the 61-year-old woman's trial after she was taken by Guardian EMS to Brownwood Regional Medical Center Thursday morning.

Holland became unresponsive as she was driven to the courthouse Thursday morning as jurors waited to hear attorneys' closing arguments in the punishment phase.

Holland's condition deteriorated, and Guardian took Holland away as jurors waited in the jury room. Ellis recessed court until later in the afternoon. After court reconvened, Ellis followed the recommendations of prosecutor Sam Moss and defense attorney Landon Thompson after a hospital representative testified that Holland wasn't going to be able to be released from the hospital within the next few days.

Ellis, speaking from the bench, said the court was waiting on evidence to learn whether Holland, who is diabetic, had intentionally overdosed or taken steps to make it appear she was having medical issues.

Cynthia Scott, patient advocate and risk management director at the hospital, testified that medical personnel had done tests on Holland and that there was no indication she had caused her own condition.

Bail bondsman Earl Kimbrell of A-Action Bail Bonds earlier testified that he'd spoken with Holland Wednesday night. Kimbrell said she'd made statements indicating she might not show up for court Thursday or do something to cause a medical condition.

"Her absence is understandable because of her medical issue," Ellis said, addressing the court. "Accordingly, a mistrial is granted."

Ellis noted again that there had been concern as to whether she had consumed alcohol or intentionally overdosed.

Ellis called jurors into the courtroom, explained what had transpired and dismissed the panel. "She may have suffered a stroke. There may be other things going on," Ellis said before dismissing the panel.

The same jurors had deliberated for just minutes Wednesday before convicting Holland. Initial testimony in the punishment phase of the trial indicated that Wednesday's conviction for drunken driving was her ninth since the 1980s. But additional testimony indicated there was a 10th conviction, with the first one occurring in the 1970s. Holland testified that she had been to prison twice.

Holland was allowed to remain free following her conviction. When it became obvious she needed medical care Thursday morning, she was placed on a couch in the judge's chambers until Guardian EMS arrived.