Appeals Court upholds Madison Co. DUI homicide conviction

Published 6:33 pm Thursday, May 17, 2007

The state Court of Appeals has upheld the DUI homicide conviction of Adrian Travis, despite concerns from four judges who said there were no eyewitnesses to the accident or any testimony that Travis was the driver of one of the cars.

Travis was sentenced 25 years in prison with 15 years suspended in Madison County Circuit Court in 2003.

According to the court record, Travis was arrested at the scene of the 1999 accident about three miles north of Canton. Milton Garrett was killed in the accident. The Appeals Court decision did not say where Travis and Garrett were from.

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According to testimony from Highway Patrol Sgt. George Henderson, Travis was standing near the intersection of U.S. 51 and Davis Road. Henderson said Travis was confused and disoriented, couldn’t remember what happened and did not admit driving one of the cars. Henderson said there were no witnesses to the accident.

Henderson testified Travis smelled of alcohol and a later Intoxilyzer test showed Travis had a blood alcohol content of 0.14 percent. In 1999, a blood alcohol content of 0.10 percent was considered legally intoxicated in Mississippi.

Henderson said his investigation revealed Garrett owned one car, and the other car was registered to a man named Eddie Winston. Neither car was registered to Travis. Henderson testified that he did not contact Winston.

On appeal, Travis argued prosecutors never proved he was the driver of the car registered to Winston.

Appeals Judge Larry E. Roberts, writing in Tuesday’s 6-4 decision, said the accident occurred about 2 a.m. in a rural area with no sidewalks and nothing to indicate the presence of pedestrian traffic.

“The jury could have found it unlikely that Travis would have been walking in that area at that time of the morning. There was only one other person at the scene who was not an emergency responder or a law enforcement officer. The jury could have reasonably inferred that Travis was at the scene of the collision because he drove one of the two cars involved,” Roberts said.

Roberts said Henderson testified that Travis never said he was not driving, that someone else was driving or that he was on foot.

“While this does not demonstrate that Travis had been driving … Sgt. Henderson testified that he concluded that Travis was driving based on Travis’ presence, the presence of emergency responders and ‘commonsense.’

“Based on the totality of the circumstances … a juror would have had to rely on speculation and conjecture to arrive at the conclusion that Travis was not the driver of the car that hit Garrett,” Roberts said.

Appeals Judge Leslie D. King, in a dissent joined by three other judges, said Henderson’s testimony was the only evidence against Travis. He said prosecutors had no evidence that Travis had the car keys or that Travis’ fingerprints were on the steering wheel or in the car.

“Henderson had no personal knowledge that Travis had driven the car. He did not witness Travis behind the wheel, he did not speak to others who saw Travis behind the wheel, and Travis did not admit driving the car. In fact, Henderson testified that he could not remember whether he even asked Travis if he had been driving,” King said.

King said Henderson had “no reasonable basis to give the opinion that Travis was operating the second vehicle at the scene.”

“In this case, Travis’ mere presence at the scene and Henderson’s ‘commonsense’ conclusion that Travis was the driver of the vehicle that struck the victim are insufficient to sustain a conviction for DUI homicide,” King said.