Unusual DWI Case in Midland Leads to Many Jurors Being Disqualified

By Sarah Snyder
NewsWest 9

It's never happened before.

A DWI case headed into a Midland County courtroom on Tuesday, but too many jurors were disqualified. 

Now the case can't go forward. 

Attorneys say it's all because the jury pool didn't think the punishment was harsh enough.

The Assistant District Attorney tells NewsWest 9, this is the most unique and unusual case he's ever seen. 

A woman charged with a felony DWI back in March headed into the courtroom, but they never made it to trial. 

Here's the thing, she's been convicted of two other DWI's, and the jury panel selected for this case didn't think the punishment fit the crime.

"It's highly unusual for this to happen," Asst. District Attorney Jason Nicks, said.

It's called a bust of a jury panel, and it's the first time it's ever happened for a DWI trial in Judge Hyde's courtroom.

"It's a very unique and unusual situation that we couldn't put a jury together that could consider the full range of punishment," Nicks said.

That punishment could be anything from probation to 10 years behind bars, but when 49 possible jurors were called on Tuesday, 17 of them thought probation just wasn't harsh enough and they were disqualified.

"Usually when we're explaining the full range of punishment during the jury selection process they usually have a harder time accepting up to 10 years in prison which is the max," Nicks said. "And this time, we had 17 people out of 49 that couldn't consider giving probation in this case."

The D.A. says it may be because there has been an increase of traffic fatalities at the hand of intoxicated drivers.

"They're frustrated with the outcomes of other juries and they've just decided that they're not going to allow it to happen while they're a juror," Nicks said.

In a misdemeanor case most jurors are satisfied with a probation sentence, but because this is a repeat offender, the jury pool wanted a harsher sentence.

"It's a concern as a prosecuter, because it shows that the citizens of Midland County are very frustrated with driving while intoxicated cases, that they want to see something happen and it's also an eyeopener as a prosecuter because we're having more intoxication assaults, intoxication manslaughter, and people that are losing their lives to DWI," Nicks said.

The D.A. says the number of serious cases where people are injured by an intoxicated driver is on the rise.

"We've had weekends such as the No Refusal weekend to try to combat this and it just seems to be a growing frustration with people in Midland County for others that are driving while intoxicated," Nicks said.

So where do they go from here?

Well, in about three weeks, they'll head to the courtroom again. 

This time there will be a larger panel of jurors to choose from in hopes that they can proceed with an unbiased group.