Motion to delay trial denied; Brennan texting-driving homicide case moves forward

ST. GEORGE – A motion to delay a trial date in a vehicle homicide case involving alleged texting, so the defense could have a chance to gather and analyze additional evidence, was denied Wednesday. The case stems from the March 2013 auto-pedestrian crash that claimed the life of 56-year-old David Henson and severely injured his wife.

Edward Flint filed a motion in September requesting the court continue, or push out, the upcoming October jury trial date for his client, Carla Lynn Brennan, 51, of St. George. Brennan has been charged with second-degree felony automobile homicide involving a hand-held communications device. The case is set for a week-long trial from Oct. 5-10.

Brennan pleaded not guilty on March 19.

The motion included a request for the Washington County Attorney’s Office to turn over cell tower data that Flint said was “vital” to Brennan’s defense. Cell phones involved in the incident were also requested, as they would be analyzed by a cell tower expert acquired by the defense. Flint said their expert would be analyzing Brennan’s phone and the others to see whether or not she was sending data via texting during the accident.

Deputy Washington County Attorney Brian Filter said the state no longer had the requested phones in its possession, nor did it have the sought-after cell tower data. There may have been some cell tower data acquired as evidence early on, Filter said, but everything the state had in relation to evidence has been shared with the defense.

Flint continued to argue the state should hand over all evidence it has and is aware of that may be beneficial to his client. Fifth District Judge Michael Westfall agreed that was the state’s responsibility, but it ended there.

I don’t think they have the responsibility to go out and dig for information that’ll help your client,” Westfall said.

However, Westfall also said he would not allow any evidence to be presented to a jury by the state that hadn’t been shared with the defense.

Flint said another point of his motion was not only to allow time for the cell tower expert to analyze requested data, but also to acquire an accident reconstructionist who could examine details related to the incident and offer expert testimony in that regard. He noted the state already had an accident reconstructionist work on the original incident.

The judge asked about the state’s accident reconstructionist and Filter said it was a police officer who would only give his observations on what he had found, and not offer opinion as a designated expert would.

Westfall appeared skeptical and said he wouldn’t allow the state’s reconstructionist witness to testify if he felt the witness ended up testifying as an expert. It was a “back door” he said he wouldn’t allow.

After hearing the arguments, Westfall denied the motion to continue the trial date, and noted the case was already a year-and-a-half old.

“People start to forget,” Westfall said. “I don’t want to put the state in a position of witnesses not remembering what happened.”

Flint asked if there would be a final status conference on the case, to which Westfall confirmed one was set for Oct. 1 at 2 p.m. Flint indicated he may file additional motions at that point. Westfall said he was anticipating receiving motions requesting the potential limiting of evidence during the trial.

Discussion was then had over how to conduct jury selection. Westfall said the nature and length of the trial, along with the media attention Brennan’s case has gained, may be an issue.

In order to select a viable jury, it was agreed that prospective jurors would likely be given a questionnaire to fill out. Westfall also said he would have around 70-90 people called in for jury duty in order to having a wider pool to select from as well.

Brennan is accused of allegedly texting on her cell phone while not paying attention to her driving on Dixie Drive in St. George on March 4, 2013. Her vehicle reportedly rear-ended the vehicle in front of her, which caused it to swerve to the side and run onto the sidewalk and hit David and Leslee Henson. David was killed while Leslee was left with severe injuries from which she has since recovered.

In the wake of the tragic event, the Henson family started an anti-texting initiative that ultimately went statewide and led to the passage of a strict anti-texting/distracted driving law that took effect earlier this year.

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Email: mkessler@stgnews.com

Twitter: @MoriKessler

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2014, all rights reserved.

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19 Comments

  • Student September 17, 2014 at 10:50 pm

    It is interesting to me that they want cell tower info. You can still be texting and driving and have no data sent to the tower. The data is only sent once the text has been competed and the ‘send’ button hit. If you’re in the middle of composing a text message there is no data sent. So I don’t see how that would help the defense. I wish more people in the St. George area would listen to this story. There are too many people who still text and drive, I have been almost hit in crosswalks too many times and the drivers are usually looking down at their laps as they come flying down the street.

  • joanna September 18, 2014 at 6:49 am

    Interesting. What on earth is she pleading not guilty to? She slammed into the car, the man was killed. Isn’t that it?

    • Rachel September 18, 2014 at 8:27 am

      She was charged with “second-degree felony automobile homicide involving a hand-held communications device”. If their defense is that she wasn’t on the phone, then that’s probably why she plead not guilty. The down side to this is that the State now has to prove that she was on the phone and they don’t have the phone in question anymore. Seems to me that that is kind of a big piece of evidence to lose or give back.

      • Joanna September 18, 2014 at 9:06 am

        Ohhhh yes, I guess that evidence *would* be an essential part of this. I just feel awful for that poor woman who lost her husband and got mowed down. Regardless of whether Brennan was on a phone or not, I have to wonder how fast she was streaking through there to hit a car so hard which THEN plowed into those poor people. I take that road frequently, and the speed limit is only like 35 or 40. Slow down and pay attention, people. Anyway, thanks for replying, Rachel!

        • Rachel September 18, 2014 at 4:15 pm

          No problem. 🙂 *salutes*

  • ladybugavenger September 18, 2014 at 8:49 am

    But you can leave a baby in a hot and it dies ( which there is neglect in that- neglected to take her baby out of car) and not get charged with anything in washington county because there was a change in a daily routine….stating the person has suffered enough…well, this person didn’t have intent to kill someone with her car that day, but it happened and she’s going to trial. I lost what little faith I had in the system here in utah the day the baby died in a hot car and no, not one single charge, or dcfs being involved in that case….#fundraiser

    • Haley September 18, 2014 at 9:09 am

      This person did however get in her car and choose to drive uninsured, wreck less and distracted and it led to the death of my innocent father. Whether she planned it or not. She is guilty

      • Joanna September 18, 2014 at 9:25 am

        Haley, I am so sincerely sorry to hear what happened to your parents. My family and I think of them often, and get angry when we think about the senselessness of it all. Best to your mom.

      • ladybugavenger September 18, 2014 at 9:47 am

        I’m sorry for your loss. Of course, she should be held accountable for her actions causing the death of your father.And forgive me for my bitterness towards another case that may have trickled over to this case.

      • The Rest Of The Story September 18, 2014 at 10:24 am

        I’m sorry for the wrongful death of your father, Haley. I doubt anyone disputes that it was caused by the negligence of the driver.
        The substance of Ladybugavenger’s comment refers to the number of people (including myself) who are still perplexed and frankly, disillusioned with the apparent miscarriage of justice regarding the recent death of an 11-month old who was left in a hot car. I doubt that people viciously want the mother to go to jail, but rather simply want the now deceased infant to have her day in court. When there is a wrongful death, the decision as to what punishment (if any) the person deserves should lie within the jurisdiction of a judge and jury, not with the Washington County Attorney to make an arbitrary decision.

        How would you feel if the Washington County Attorney had dismissed your case under the grounds of the woman simply being distracted by lack of sleep and then turning her loose on the road again? (And to further inflame the matter, a local fundraiser held to raise thousands of dollars to give to the woman.) That’s basically what has happened with the other case involving the deceased child in Hurricane–and why so many people are upset, and will continue to be upset, for months & years to come. I won’t get into how people are worried for the safety of the other 2 children either.

        In my opinion, it’s time to organize a recall election to ouster Brock Belnap for dereliction of duty, and to elect a replacement who will serve the interests of justice.

        Again, I’m sorry for your loss of your father and I hope justice is served impartially. It’s what we expect when we elect a County Attorney.

      • Killerswalkfreeindixie September 19, 2014 at 12:48 pm

        The hurricane lady decided to leave her baby home unattended while she went to pick up her boys from daycare/forgot the baby was in the car/was tired and made a mistake/ whatever the excuse is now. Whether she planned the baby killing or not, she is guilty of manslaughter. Yet…. No charges.
        This driver should get to walk as well

    • Koolaid September 18, 2014 at 4:09 pm

      Is there a law against turning your car into baby toasters?

  • Mary September 18, 2014 at 9:36 am

    As this was more than a year ago , WHY didn’t the defense request the info from the company directly ?
    Why would anyone want a 2nd report through an agency ?
    If I was innocent , I would have gotten those records the same week directly from my service provider .

    • Mary September 18, 2014 at 9:37 am

      Typo – I should have said ” 2nd HAND report ” . . .

  • My Evil Twin September 18, 2014 at 11:28 am

    This is nothing more than a standard delaying tactic by the defense attorney. As the judge noted, people tend to forget certain facts, the farther you move away from an incident. The defense will do everything in its power to delay as long as possible, hoping that witnesses will either forget, move away or die.
    Remember we do not have a “Justice System,” we have a “legal system.” It is just a justice system in name only.

  • koolaid September 18, 2014 at 2:03 pm

    How is this a worse crime than leaving your baby to cook in the car? Why no fundraiser for this woman?

  • Zonkerb September 18, 2014 at 11:24 pm

    PUT HER IN PRISON AND LEAVE HER THERE so she doesn’t kill anybody else

  • Defense Supporters September 21, 2014 at 11:22 pm

    We the supporters of the defense team are sickened by the Police, DA’s office and all the people already convicting her all ready. Please tell me How Leslie has all this proof that woman was texting at all,. Leslie please get your facts and all evidence together before you open up your mouth saying ugly spewing words to nothing you know other then what was only told To you and for being a devoted GOD LOVING Woman WE CERTAINLY LOST RESPECT. As the saying goes Keep your enemies closer because no more life’s need to be destroyed. When she’s found NOT GUILTY WE WISH HER ALL THE LUCK IN THE WORLD IN HER QUEST TO MAKE SURE JUSTICE FOR
    HER IS FULFILLED FOR EVERY THING SHE HAS HAD TO GO THRU WITH ALL THE DEATH THREATS TO HER AND HER CHILDREN AND PERSONAL PROPERTY BE DESTROYED IN THE END HER JUSTICE WILL BE SERVED….GOD BE WITH YOU. REMEMBER YOU HAVE PEOPLE THAT DO CARE

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