Alabama judge: DUI not admissible evidence for reckless murder trial of former astronaut

James Halsell; Credit: NASA

James Halsell is scheduled to stand trial for the charges in a Tuscaloosa County Circuit Court starting on Monday, March 9, 2020.

Posted: Feb 2, 2020 9:38 PM
Updated: Feb 3, 2020 8:09 AM

The trial of a former Space Shuttle commander will take place in just over a month and the judge in the case ruled that a prior conviction will not be considered as evidence.

Col. James Halsell Jr., a former NASA astronaut, was indicted in September 2016 on two counts of Reckless Murder and four counts of First-Degree Assault after investigators said he was involved in a wreck that led to the deaths of Niomi Deona James, 11, and Jayla Latrick Parler, 13, in Tuscaloosa County.

Court documents state that Halsell, a Huntsville resident, was driving to Louisiana to pick up his son when the wreck took place.

Last week, Halsell's attorney, Charles R. Malone, filed more than a dozen Motions in Limine and Motions to Supress to have various pieces of evidence excluded from the trial, like transcripts of the 911 call and testimony from witnesses without direct knowledge of the crash.

He also filed a motion to include the lesser offense of Criminally Negligent Homicide as a possibility for the jury to consider or if not, Malone argues that the case should be dismissed.

He stated that "The State's failure to charged the Defendant under the Alabama Code section 13A-6-4 is prejudicial to the substantial rights of the Defendant and the faulty indictment is therefore due to be dismissed."

A hearing still needs to be set to discuss most of the motions, but the judge did grant the defense's first Motion in Limine, which was filed on January 9, 2020, prior to a January 10, 2020, hearing. 

In it, Malone argued that Halsell's 2014 DUI conviction in California should not be admissible under Alabama Rules of Evidence. Prosecutors challenged that assertion and stated that the conviction is relevant to the case.

However, Judge Allen W. May Jr. sided with Malone's argument because in the 2014 case, it was an alcohol-related DUI, but in the 2016 wreck, Halsell did not have alcohol in his system.

Last year, another attorney for Halsell, James Sturdivant, stated that Halsell had Ambien in his system at the time of the crash.

Halsell is scheduled to stand trial for the charges in a Tuscaloosa County Circuit Court starting on Monday, March 9, 2020.

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