The high profile intoxicated manslaughter conviction of former NFL player Josh Brent, 25, was aided by key expert witness testimony which supported the prosecution’s theory that Brent was drunk at the time of the fatal car crash that killed his friend and teammate, Jerry Brown. Brent’s defense attorney argued that he was not intoxicated when he got behind the wheel of the car, however, the prosecution expert witness disputed that position by analyzing Brent’s blood alcohol content and testifying that he had several drinks before driving.
Toxicologist Justin Schwane took the stand to testify that Brent’s blood taken at the time of his arrest, indicated that the blood alcohol calculations indicated the 6-foot-2, 320 pound Brent had consumed 17 drinks prior to driving. Brent’s blood alcohol level was .189, consistent with Schwane’s expert toxicology testimony that Brent had consumed far more than the “fewer than five drinks” he told the police. Central to the prosecution’s argument was evidence of Brent’s intoxication which caused the fatal crash, and Mr. Schwane’s statement bolstered the case against the ex-Cowboy by indicating that the quantity of alcohol he consumed was sufficient to render him intoxicated, even considering his size.
Brent’s defense team responded to the testimony with what has become a fairly standard criticism of toxicology expert witnesses: arguing the testing was not proper due to potentially improper storage of Brent’s blood, questioning whether the testing equipment and procedure could have been faulty, and challenging Schwane’s credentials as a toxicology expert. However, the jury was sufficiently convinced that he was drunk at the time of the accident, and Brent was convicted of intoxicated manslaughter. After two days of sentencing trial, Brent was given 10 years of probation and 180 days in jail.