FROM THE CRAIGHEAD COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, EASTERN DISTRICT
[NO. 16LCR-17-21] HONORABLE DAN RITCHEY, JUDGE.
Goodwin Jones, for appellant.
Rutledge, Att'y Gen., by: Pamela Rumpz, Senior Ass't
Att'y Gen., for appellee.
MEREDITH B. SWITZER, JUDGE.
26, 2016, while driving his in-laws' truck, appellant
Michael Turner crossed the center line and hit Mary
Nietch's 2005 Nissan Sentra in a head-on collision.
Turner was convicted by a Craighead County Circuit Court jury
of battery in the first degree. He was sentenced as a
habitual offender to thirty years in prison. On appeal,
Turner argues the circuit court erred in denying his motion
for directed verdict. We affirm.
Saffell, chief of police for the Lake City Police Department,
testified that he worked the Turner/Nietch accident on July
26, 2016. He arrived six minutes after the wreck and found
the front of Nietch's car was "smashed in."
Nietch was unconscious and trapped inside the car. Chief
Saffell stated that the rear of Nietch's car was hanging
off the bridge embankment, and there were no brake marks.
According to Chief Saffell, a search warrant was issued for a
blood draw on Turner; this blood draw was performed by NEA
Hospital and submitted to the Arkansas State Crime Lab. On
February 16, 2017, Turner pleaded guilty in district court to
driving while intoxicated (DWI), first offense, in connection
with this incident.
Deborah Cook, an emergency-room doctor at St. Bernard's
Hospital, testified that she treated Nietch after the wreck.
She was in critical condition when she arrived, was intubated
due to respiratory failure after the trauma, and was unable
to breathe effectively on her own. Dr. Cook explained Nietch
suffered a suspected depressed-scalp fracture in which the
bone encasing the brain was fractured and sunken in; a
fracture of one of her femur bones; blood behind her eardrum;
and broken bones in her lower arm. Dr. Cook said that due to
the serious nature of her injuries, Nietch was transferred to
St. Vincent Hospital.
Davis, a first responder from Lake City, testified that when
he arrived at the crash scene, he saw Turner lying
unconscious on the side of the road. Davis could tell there
had been a head-on collision.
Haynes, an officer with the Lake City Police Department,
testified he prepared the affidavit for the search warrant to
draw Turner's blood. Turner's blood was drawn by a
registered nurse; when the vials of blood were delivered to
Haynes, he sealed the vials in an evidence bag, transported
the bag to the police department, placed it in a locked
refrigerator, and mailed the vials to the crime lab the next
day. Officer Haynes also testified that Turner entered a
guilty plea on February 16, 2017, to DWI, first offense.
Westhafer, an analyst for the Arkansas State Crime Lab,
testified he found no alcohol in Turner's blood, but the
blood tested positive for benzodiazepines, THC, and
methamphetamine. Westhafer explained that the investigating
officer did not request a quantitative analysis of the drugs
in Turner's system, only a determination of whether there
were any drugs in his system. Westhafer said because the drug
amounts in Turner's system were unknown, there was
nothing to indicate whether he was impaired.
Raja, a neurosurgeon at St. Vincent, testified via video that
he treated Nietch after her car wreck. He said there were
concerns about bleeding on the brain, which was causing too
much pressure on Nietch's brain. He explained
Nietch's injury was a closed-head injury, which caused
swelling in the brain, and there was an intraparenchymal
hemorrhage, which meant that the swelling was in the brain
matter itself. Dr. Raja stated Nietch underwent emergency
surgery to provide more room for her swelling brain; she
remained in a coma for several months after the surgery; and
she was in critical condition for several weeks.
Taylor witnessed the wreck. He said Turner's truck
"came up" behind him on the highway, Turner was
swerving around cars, and Turner passed him. Taylor testified
Turner was traveling at such a high rate of speed it made
other drivers look as though they were standing still. Taylor
said the wreck occurred about thirty seconds after Turner had
Brewer also witnessed the wreck. Brewer said Turner passed
him at the end of the bridge in the passing lane. According
to Brewer, he was driving the speed limit, while Turner
appeared to be driving much faster. Brewer saw Turner cross