Texas hit-and-run trial begins

Feb. 12, 2013 at 6:32 PM
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AUSTIN, Texas, Feb. 12 (UPI) -- Observers wiped away tears Tuesday as firefighters described finding a woman allegedly killed by former legislative aide Gabrielle Nestande in Austin, Texas.

Courtney Griffin was the victim of a hit-and-run accident May 27, 2011. The 25-year-old Nestande, authorities say, was the driver who struck the 30-year-old woman and fled the scene.

First responders testified they found Griffin's shoeless body lying awkwardly on her stomach atop broken branches of a nearby bush, the Austin American-Statesman reported. The Statesman said people in the gallery wiped away tears during the testimony.

Griffin, a nanny and veterinary technician, was walking along a West Austin street when she was hit, court records showed.

Nestande is charged with manslaughter, intoxication manslaughter, and failure to stop and render aid, all felonies.

Defense attorney Sam Bassett said during a suppression hearing earlier in the day Nestande didn't have an attorney present when she was interviewed by a police officer at her Capitol office after the incident, and was arrested without a warrant. At one point in the questioning, Nestande said she should not say anything without an attorney's presence, but Bassett said the questioning continued.

An Austin police officer testified he interviewed Nestande, advised her she was not under detention, and said he did not read Nestande her Miranda rights during the interview.

"I felt she was inferring she wanted one [a lawyer], but it wasn't a direct request," the officer said.

Assistant District Attorney Allison Wetzel noted Nestande's vehicle had a broken windshield, with blood, skin and pieces of clothing attached, calling it evidence that qualified as probable cause for arrest.

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