Alexander May faces two to 20 years in prison after a Lubbock jury found him guilty of manslaughter in the 2017 death of 18-year-old Jonathan Pesqueda after a high-speed, wrong-way head on collision on an overpass on South Loop 289.
Jurors deliberated for about 30 minutes Friday before returning to the 140th District Court where May, 31, stood silently next to his attorneys as District Judge Douglas Freitag read their verdict.
Jurors believed May recklessly caused Pesqueda's death in the early morning hours of Aug. 3, 2017. They also had the option of finding May guilty of a lesser included charge of criminally negligent homicide, a state jail felony that carries a punishment of six months to two years in a state jail facility.
Prosecutors alleged multiple reckless acts they believed May engaged in, including speeding, driving while under the influence of alcohol, driving westbound in the eastbound lane of Loop 289, failing to yield right of way or applying his brakes or maneuvering his vehicle to avoid the crash.
Prosecutor Chris Schulte compared May's actions that night to someone firing a gun in the air, disregarding the risk the stray bullet would hit someone.
"But instead of a bullet, Mr. May drove a two-ton vehicle like a missile down (Loop) 289," he said.
Jurors only needed to find May did at least one of those acts beyond reasonable doubt and they did not have to be unanimous on which act. They also found May used his Toyota Tacoma that day as a deadly weapon.
May's defense attorney Fred Stangl told jurors in his closing argument there was no question his client caused the collision. However, the evidence against his client fell short of proving he acted recklessly that night, he said.
To find his client guilty, Stangl argued the evidence should show May consciously disregarded a substantial and unjustifiable risk he would cause a crash that night. Instead, he said argued his client's actions were closely aligned with negligence, saying his client ought to have known that his actions would have caused the fatal crash, which Stangl also argued was an unavoidable.
Stangl argued prosecutors failed to show his client knew he was driving the wrong way on the Loop and disregarded the risk.
"You have to believe he knew he was doing that," he told jurors. "Who in their right mind would do that?"
Lubbock police crash investigators told jurors the evidence at the scene showed both vehicles approached each other as they were driving up on either side the overpass above Indiana Avenue. They said neither May nor Pesqueda would have been able to see each other in time to avoid the head-on collision.
A Lubbock police crash investigator said he used video footage from a nearby building that caught May driving on the Loop moments before the crash and calculated that the Tacoma was traveling about 89 mph.
However, prosecutors argued that the evidence clearly showed May's recklessness.
"This isn't a hard case, this isn't a tricky case," said Mandi Say, the Lubbock County first assistant district attorney.
She said a reasonable person would know that driving the wrong way on the Loop was reckless. Under the law intoxication is not a defense.
"You cannot have that and the death of one of your citizens and call it an accident," Say told jurors. "You all know sitting here that you cannot get on the loop and act that way. 'Cause if you do that you would be reckless."
She said but for May's actions, Pesqueda would still be alive.
"Make no mistake, it's not just a tragedy -- it's manslaughter," Say said.
She said there was enough evidence to show that May was driving under the influence of alcohol that night.
May's passenger, Cody James, did not testify at the trial. However, jurors were presented his statements to paramedics at the scene, saying he didn't think May was drunk until he began making random U-turns that resulted in them traveling the wrong way on the loop.
Jurors were also presented May's medical records from Covenant Medical Center where he was treated for his injuries from the crash.
Medical records also showed that May's blood-alcohol level that night was .232 percent. However, that evidence was inadmissible in court since prosecutors were unable to call on the technician from Covenant to testify about how the analysis was made.
Instead, prosecutors used medical records that showed multiple physician's statements indicating they believed May was intoxicated. May was also given a prescription for medicine that would treat alcohol withdrawal.
Stangl argued the evidence that indicated his client's intoxication was unreliable.
A Lubbock police officer who spoke to May at Covenant Medical Center said the defendant appeared confused and incoherent. He said May's demeanor coupled with the odor of alcohol he smelled from the defendant's breath led him to conclude that May was intoxicated that night.
However, Stangl told jurors his client's demeanor could also be explained as effects from a dose of fentanyl a paramedic who treated May at the scene said she gave him for pain before taking him to the hospital.
The punishment phase of the trial began after the jury's guilty verdict was announced and continues Monday with defense attorneys presenting evidence to show that May, who is eligible for probation, was not a danger to the community.
To recommend probation, jurors will have to hand May a prison sentence of up to 10 years, which will be suspended for a term of up to 10 years of community supervision.
While on probation, May will have to obey court-ordered conditions. He faces up to 10 years in prison if his probation is revoked and a court determines that a prison sentence is appropriate. However, the law provides probationers a way to petition the court to get out of their community supervision after serving about a third of it.
This article originally appeared on Lubbock Avalanche-Journal: Alexander May found guilty of manslaughter in 2017 fatal crash