Driver Convicted in Awful South by Southwest Crash

Rashad Owens found guilty of capital murder
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Nov 6, 2015 4:18 PM CST
Driver Convicted in Awful South by Southwest Crash
This undated photo provided by the Austin Police Department in Austin, Texas, shows Rashad Charjuan Owens.   (AP Photo/Austin Police Department)

A jury on Friday found a driver guilty of capital murder in a crash that killed four people last year at the South by Southwest festival in Austin. The Austin American-Statesman reports the Travis County jury returned with the verdict against 23-year-old Rashad Owens after a little more than three hours of deliberation. About 50 people had crowded into the courtroom to hear the verdict. The verdict means Owens will automatically spend the rest of his life in prison without the possibility of parole. To find him guilty of capital murder, jurors had to unanimously agree Owens intentionally or knowingly caused the death of two or more people when he drove into the crowd. Prosecutors did not seek the death penalty.

In closing arguments Friday, prosecutor Amy Meredith told jurors to not talk about Owens' intent, but to focus on how he was aware his conduct could be deadly. She said an officer had been trying to conduct a simple traffic stop when Owens refused to comply and fled. Meredith told jurors that Owens had the wherewithal to turn on his blinker, maneuver his way around a gas station, and swerve around a parked car in his way as he fled from the traffic stop and approached the festival crowd. "There is no other answer than that the defendant knew what he was doing—and he didn't care," Meredith said. "He didn't care who was in his way. He was not going to be stopped. He was not going to go to jail." (More South by Southwest Festival stories.)

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