Appeals court upholds 2016 conviction of Kirbyville man who struck, killed Lumberton man in 2012

BEAUMONT - A Kirbyville man has lost an appeal for his conviction of criminally negligent homicide in the 2012 death of a Lumberton man who was struck while walking along Eastex Freeway in Beaumont.

The Texas Ninth Court of Appeals upheld the trial court's conviction of Justin Allen Lawson, 27, who was sentenced to two years.

He was convicted in October 2016 of the death of Mitchell Glen Downs in December of 2012.

MORE | Read the Ninth Court of Appeals' decision

Lawson, who was 22 at the time of the incident, struck Downs as he walked along Eastex Freeway near Park North Drive in Beaumont.

Lawson claimed in his appeal that the trial court should not have allowed the state to admit evidence of his alcohol use on the day of the crash because the state had not included it in the indictment.

Lawson and his attorney claimed that this admission harmed him because the state relied on the evidence of his alcohol use that day as the "primary basis for his conviction."

At least two witnesses testified that they drank with Lawson after working and that "they all drank as many fifty cent margaritas as the restaurant would sell them, which was four."

One witness testified that the margaritas were “pretty weak” and that he didn't think that he or Lawson were impaired afterwards.

The appeals court stated in its opinion that "because the evidence of Lawson’s alcohol use was a relevant factor the jury could consider, we conclude that the trial court did not abuse its discretion by admitting the evidence."

A Jefferson County jury in 2016 took about two and a half hours to unanimously find Lawson not guilty of second degree manslaughter and guilty of criminally negligent homicide in the death of Downs.

Lawson was driving when he hit Downs who was walking along northbound Eastex Freeway near Park North Drive.

Lawson fled the scene of the crash and was later arrested on manslaughter charges.

Had Lawson been found guilty of the manslaughter charge he could have faced up to 20 years in prison.

Downs was legally blind and unable to drive, which is why he made the trek on foot from Beaumont to Lumberton the night he died.

Prosecutors say Lawson fled the scene and was arrested the next day, so police couldn't charge him for being intoxicated.

© 2017 KBMT-TV


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