Court upholds murder conviction in SXSW crashes that killed 4 in 2014


Highlights

Rashad Owens had been convicted of capital murder and sentenced to life in prison without parole.

Appeals court rejects claim that the evidence showed Owens did not knowingly put lives in danger.

A state appeals court Wednesday upheld the capital murder conviction of Rashad Owens for driving a car down a crowded downtown Austin street, killing four during the 2014 South by Southwest music festival.

Owens, who is serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole, asked the 3rd Court of Appeals to overturn his conviction, arguing that it was not supported by evidence that he knowingly acted in a manner likely to cause death when he drove around a street barricade and through a crowd while being pursued by police.

Instead, Owens claimed, the evidence showed that he intended only to evade police and that he drove recklessly while intoxicated.

The appeals court rejected that argument, noting that Owens’ car was estimated to be traveling at 55 mph after he turned onto Red River Street between East Ninth and East 11th streets.

READ: Questions remain on Border Patrol agent’s death in West Texas

“Multiple witnesses, including some who were hit by the car, testified that they heard the car accelerate as it drove through the crowded street and that they never saw the car’s brake lights illuminated,” said the ruling, written by Chief Justice Jeff Rose.

“The jury also heard testimony that as Owens drove on Red River, people were screaming, there were loud, thudding sounds as the car was hitting bodies and sending them flying in the air, and some bodies were rolling off of the car,” Rose wrote.

Based on the testimony and evidence, jurors would have been justified in determining that Owens should have been aware that his actions were “reasonably certain to result in death,” the ruling said.

The appeals court also rejected three other claims raised by Owens, including an argument that prosecutors misstated the law during closing arguments by saying that Owens was “aware that his conduct could kill people” and that he “knew what he was doing.”

Owens could not raise the claim on appeal, the court ruled, because his trial lawyers failed to object to the statements when they were made to the jury.

The series of crashes along Red River, which had been closed to traffic, left more than 20 people hospitalized and immediately killed Steven Craenmehr, a 35-year-old a Dutch musician who had been riding a bicycle, and 27-year-old Jamie West of Austin, who had been on a motorcycle with her husband Evan, who was injured.

Sandy Le, 26, a Mississippi resident who had moved to Austin to qualify for Texas residency for college, and DeAndre Tatum, an 18-year-old from Fort Worth who was in Austin for the music festival, died days later in the hospital.

The early morning carnage also changed the way Austin police and festival organizers provide security for the city’s many public events, with more cameras, stronger traffic enforcement and better coordination among security personnel.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

Icy roads in the Houston area have caused an actual traffic nightmare
Icy roads in the Houston area have caused an actual traffic nightmare

Ice and roads don’t mix well, especially for Texans. “Black ice” over roadways can lead to serious crashes if cars skid, so officials caution drivers to either avoid areas with the potential to freeze, like overpasses, or to just skip driving altogether.  Unfortunately, for a city like Houston, keeping drivers off the road is...
'Potentially hazardous' monster asteroid will fly close to Earth
'Potentially hazardous' monster asteroid will fly close to Earth

A monster space rock classified by NASA as "potentially hazardous" is headed towards Earth. Asteroid 2002 AJ129 – which at 0.7 miles is wider than the tallest building in the U.S. (New York's One World Trade Center) stacked on top itself – is predicted to miss our planet, according to Metro. However, it will pass relatively...
Update: Cedar Park High School given all clear after lockdown

12:52 p.m. update: Cedar Park police posted on Twitter that Cedar Park High School is clear and officers are leaving the school. Police have yet to give details on why the school was put on lock down. 12:35 p.m. update: Cedar Park police are investigating a call about a suspicious person at Cedar Park High School, according to a tweet from...
Community news: Four Points Task Force seeks input

TRAVIS COUNTY NORTHWEST AUSTIN Input sought on Four Points The Four Points Task Force is seeking community input on changes, improvements and opportunities for the Four Points community at two meetings next week. Meetings will be from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday at Concordia University’s Incubator for Innovation & Impact, Building B, 11400 Concordia...
George P. Bush outraises GOP primary opponent Patterson
George P. Bush outraises GOP primary opponent Patterson

Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush, facing a Republican primary challenge from Jerry Patterson, the man who formerly held his post, significantly outraised his opponent in the last half of 2017, campaign finance reports filed this week show. Bush’s campaign raised $1 million, leaving him with almost $3.4 million in the bank at the end of...
More Stories