FROM THE MONTGOMERY COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 49CR-16-32]
HONORABLE JERRY RYAN, JUDGE.
David Lewis, for appellant.
Rutledge, Att'y Gen., by: Rebecca Kane, Ass't
Att'y Gen., for appellee.
M. GLOVER, JUDGE.
14, 2016, while driving his vehicle Sergio Garza hit a
motorcycle. Joe Payte, the driver of the motorcycle, suffered
serious injuries,  and the passenger, Charlene Payte,
Joe's wife, died as a result of the injuries she
sustained in the accident. Garza was convicted by a
Montgomery County jury of the offenses of leaving the scene
of an accident involving death or personal injury, battery in
the first degree, and negligent homicide. He was sentenced to
six years in prison for leaving the scene of an accident, and
twenty years each for the battery-in-the-first-degree and
negligent-homicide convictions, with the sentences ordered to
be served consecutively. On appeal, Garza argues the circuit
court erred in denying his motions for directed verdict. We
trial, David Godsey testified that on the night of the
accident, he saw the body of Charlene Payte lying partially
in the road on the edge of Highway 182. He stopped to
investigate and found Charlene Payte facedown and
unresponsive; he called 911, but she passed away before she
could receive medical assistance. Godsey heard Joe Payte
yelling; he found Joe lying in the ditch severely injured.
While Godsey did not see the accident, Joe told him he and
Charlene had been hit.
to paramedic Michael Williams, Joe suffered life-threatening
injuries in the accident and was in an excruciating amount of
pain. Williams administered IV fluids to keep Joe's blood
pressure elevated, and Williams testified Joe would not have
lived much longer if he had not received emergency medical
State Trooper Ryne Shelton investigated the accident and
concluded the Paytes were rear-ended by Garza. He explained
Garza left over 170 feet of skid marks, indicating he was
traveling at a somewhat high rate of speed; the motorcycle
was in the westbound lane in the middle of a turn when it was
hit, which is the lane for oncoming traffic; and Garza's
vehicle hit the motorcycle from behind with such force the
motorcycle's taillight was impaled in the grill of
Garza's vehicle and Garza's airbags were deployed.
Trooper Shelton testified a Montgomery County deputy sheriff
located Garza and returned him to the scene in handcuffs;
Garza had a strong odor of intoxicants on his breath, which
led Trooper Shelton to believe alcohol might be involved. He
explained that the accident occurred at 7:32 p.m., and while
Garza consented to have his blood drawn for testing, anytime
a nurse would come near him with a needle, he would begin
yelling, and the nurse felt it was unsafe to attempt to draw
blood. Trooper Shelton offered Garza a urine test at 12:05
a.m., and a urine sample was taken thirty minutes later-five
hours after the accident. Trooper Shelton testified he
administered field-sobriety tests of horizontal-gaze
nystagmus, walk and turn, and one-leg stand to Garza prior to
Garza's urine test. He said Garza had distinct sustained
nystagmus at maximum deviation in both eyes, as well as onset
of nystagmus prior to forty-five degrees, which indicated
impairment; Garza lost his balance during the instruction
stage of the walk-and-turn test, used his arms for balance,
stepped off the line, had improper turning, and stopped while
walking, which were all clues of impairment; and he provided
multiple clues during the one-leg-stand test, such as putting
his foot down, using his arms for balance, and swaying while
he balanced. Trooper Shelton reached the conclusion Garza was
impaired as a result of his performances on these
forensic toxicologist from the state crime lab testified
Garza's urine tested positive for amphetamines, although
she could not determine the amount of amphetamines in his
urine and did not know if Garza had enough amphetamines to be
intoxicated. A second toxicologist from the state crime lab
testified she conducted a test on Garza's urine and found
.072 percent alcohol at the time of the test, which
translated to .055 percent in Garza's blood at that time;
she also found methamphetamine and amphetamines in
Garza's urine, but she did not conduct quantitative
testing of the amounts.
Davis, a deputy at the Montgomery County Sheriff's
Department, testified he was assigned the task of locating
Garza; after receiving a tip, he found Garza at his
sister's residence about a quarter of a mile from the
accident. Garza's sister said he had just arrived, which
was about forty-five minutes to an hour after the wreck.
Davis found Garza sitting on the couch in his sister's
house; when Garza attempted to stand, he fell back onto the
couch and required assistance to stand up. Davis stated he
had to hold Garza up to walk him out the door, and he
arrested Garza for leaving the scene of an accident. Davis
returned Garza to the scene of the accident and transferred
him to Trooper Shelton's custody. It was Davis's
opinion that Garza was intoxicated at that time.
Thomas, a criminal investigator with the Arkansas State
Police, assisted in the crash investigation. It was
Thomas's opinion the motorcycle was impacted by a vehicle
from the rear. Thomas testified that according to his
training, the average dissipation rate of alcohol in the
human body is about .015 percent an hour.
State rested after Thomas's testimony. Garza moved for
directed verdicts on all three counts. Garza's counsel
argued there was no evidence Garza knew there was a person
visible to him after the accident; therefore, he could not be
guilty of leaving the scene of the accident; as to
first-degree battery, he argued there was no evidence of
Garza's intent to injure anyone; and as to negligent
homicide, he argued there was no evidence Garza was
negligent. Those motions were denied.
Graves testified for the defense. He stated he lived in the
area where the wreck occurred, he saw a car being driven down
the road, quickly and then he heard the "boom" of
the wreck. Graves said the driver then pulled into his
driveway, parked by the edge of the woods, and a person he
identified as Garza got out of the car and got into another
car with another person. Graves said he did not know if Garza
was intoxicated, and when he asked Garza what he hit, Garza
said he did not know-maybe a cow, a dog, or a motorcycle.
testified in his own defense. He stated that, on the day of
the accident, he had some whiskey to drink "pretty
much" right before the accident, got into his car to
drive to his sister's house, and the accident happened.
Although Garza denied using methamphetamine on the day of the
accident, he admitted he had used the drug the day before.
However, he ...