It was a quick verdict. In approximately two hours, the jury in the trial of Jason Hays completed their deliberations and returned to the courtroom with a verdict of guilty.
Hays will soon have another sentence to serve, on top of the 12 years, with four suspended, that was handed down to him in November in another meth-related case.
In the current case, Hays was charged with a class B felony: Operating a vehicle with a Schedule I or II controlled substance in the body causing death. Methamphetamine is a Schedule II controlled substance.
At the conclusion of a three-day trial, the jury agreed with Greene County Prosecutor Jarrod Holtsclaw that Hays caused an accident that claimed the life of a young mother, Savanah Allen, on February 15, 2012 in eastern Greene County, and of operating his vehicle with a controlled substance, specifically methamphetamine, in his blood at the time of the crash.
Holtsclaw called more witnesses to the stand when court reconvened Wednesday morning, then Riester called witnesses and presented the case for the defense. Both sides had made their closing arguments by about 3 p.m., the judge gave final instructions to the jury and they began deliberations around 4 p.m. They returned a verdict before 6 p.m.
Holtsclaw began his closing by reminding the jury of the meaning of the phrase "beyond a reasonable doubt." He said he did not have to prove his case beyond all doubt, or any doubt, or a shadow of a doubt, but beyond reasonable doubt. He said he had to firmly convince them of the defendant's guilt.
Using a PowerPoint presentation to illustrate the main points he wanted the jury to consider, Holtsclaw presented a synopsis of the facts, then all witnesses who testified and the important points to remember from their testimony.
Jennifer Johnson drove up on the crash right after it happened and testified that Hays had crawled backwards out of the window of the jeep, that he was bleeding, that he was more concerned about cleaning out the vehicle and that he never asked about the occupant of the other vehicle involved in the crash.
Greene County Sheriff's Deputy Brad Deckard, the first officer to arrive on the scene, said he offered a chemical test to Hays but he refused then left the scene with a parent, saying he was going to go to a hospital.
Greene County Sheriff's Detective Christopher McDonald said it was a chaotic scene and he saw blood in Hays' Jeep but no sign of contamination. Later in the day, McDonald checked with area hospitals to interview Hays and get a blood draw but found Hays did not go to any hospital. Holtsclaw said McDonald secured the Jeep, obtained search warrants and sent evidence to laboratories for analysis. He also testified he spent over a month trying to locate Hays.
Kevin Shanks, a forensic toxicologist, performed tests on the blood samples and determined the blood did contain methamphetamine.
Susan Laine, a forensic DNA analyst with the Indiana State Police laboratory in Evansville, testified that DNA testing showed the blood in the Jeep was a match to Hays.
ISP Trooper Justin Butler testified about his roll in transporting evidence.
Andy Clark, an accident reconstructionist who's been with the ISP for 22 years, assisted in evidence collection and analyzed data from the event data recorders in both vehicles. Allen's vehicle was too old to get much data but he testified data from the Jeep revealed Hays was going 60 mph, had not made a sudden turn and had not applied his brakes.
Greg Day, an ISP accident reconstructionist who worked the scene, testified the impact happened near the center of Allen's lane.
Emergency medical personnel who offered assistance to Hays, Kelli Spelts and David Ausman, both testified they thought Hays was going to the hospital with his parent.
Connie Baker, the defendant's mother, testified she owned the Jeep and she kept it immaculate. Holtsclaw said she testified that it was the first time she loaned her vehicle to Hays, and that she loaned it to him "in a weak moment" and that Hays convinced her not to go to the hospital, that Hays was distraught when McDonald came to her house that night, and that Hays left the house the next day.
In Riester's closing argument, he said a deputy and the paramedics saw no indication Hays was on meth and there was reason to question the lab results.
Riester said the tests did not say there was methamphetamine in the blood when it was in his body, just that there was meth in the blood drop when it was collected.
The tests performed can detect a very small amount of meth and Riester contended that Det. McDonald had been wearing a coat when he was doing meth investigations, could have had meth on the coat, wore the same coat when collecting the blood samples and it could have contaminated the sample.
Riester also suggested that someone could have had meth in the car at some time in the past and that could have contaminated the samples.
Riester also criticized Trooper Day saying he was young and inexperienced, did not handle the scene properly, did not do his job, and got an incomplete analysis.
Riester said, "All the evidence we've heard is flawed. It's all flawed" and if there was a reasonable doubt, then the jury must find Hays not guilty.
In his rebuttal, Holtsclaw said Trooper Day could not have been more clear about who caused the crash and he reminded the jury that Savanah Allen was a beautiful young mother whose life was taken by the defendant's recklessness. He said he would have subpoenaed medical records for Hays but Hays didn't go to the hospital.
"There's a reason why he wouldn't go to the hospital, would not take the test, and was willing to lose his license for a year," said Holtsclaw.
The jury reached a guilty verdict despite not knowing the following facts, which could not be brought up during the trial:
* When Det. McDonald reviewed Hays' criminal history, he found Hays was convicted in Lawrence County on Jan. 23, 2012, of purchasing more than 3.6 grams of precursors in a day.
* And that Hays was convicted in Monroe County on Jan. 26, 2012 of purchasing more than nine grams of precursors within a 30-day period.
* And that, at the time the current case was filed, Hays was out on bond from Daviess County where he was facing two class B felony counts for dealing in methamphetamine as well as charges for possession of chemical reagents or precursors with intent to manufacture and unlawful possession of a syringe.
* And, that Det. McDonald finally found Hays when he was arrested in Greene County, in the Lawrence Hollow area, on March 30, 2012. In the probable cause filed in that case, Greene County Sheriff's Det. George Dallaire alleged that Hays was stopped when he was in the process of making meth by a "one-pot" method while driving in a vehicle and that Hays had this portable meth lab in a black duffel bag on the floor board of the vehicle. The affidavit details a long list of chemicals, precursors and equipment that Hays was allegedly carrying in the vehicle. A number of serious charges were filed against Hays. He signed a plea agreement pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit dealing in methamphetamine, a class B felony. On Nov. 14, he was sentenced to 12 years in prison with four suspended.
Hays still faces sentencing in the current case.