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Legal expert says defense will try to convince jury intoxication was not a factor in crash that killed Beaumont officer

"The question is, did the death and accident occur by reason of the intoxication?"

BEAUMONT, Texas — A legal expert gave his opinion on how attorneys will handle a high-profile case involving a beloved Beaumont officer and a man accused of causing the wreck that killed her.

Almost two years after the death of Beaumont Officer Sheena Yarbrough-Powell, her friends and family will come face to face with the man accused of killing her in court. That man is 20-year-old Luis Torres.

Prosecutors said Torres slammed into the officer's car on Cardinal Drive, killing her and injuring her partner. Officials said Torres' blood alcohol level was more than three times the legal limit on the night of the crash.

Officer Yarbrough-Powell was 23 when she died. Torres was 18 when the crash took place.

Torres is charged with intoxication manslaughter, a first-degree felony. If he is found guilty, he could face anywhere from five to 99 years or life in prison and up to a $10,000 fine.

Intoxication manslaughter is normally a second-degree felony that carries a sentence of anywhere from two to 20 years in prison. It has been upgraded to a first-degree felony for Torres because the victim was an officer.

Related : Intoxication manslaughter trial begins Tuesday for Port Arthur man accused in 2020 head-on wreck that killed Beaumont officer 

Jury selection will begin at the Jefferson County Courthouse Tuesday morning. Testimony is expected to start later that afternoon in front of Judge John Stevens.

"It's going to be a very interesting, a very interesting trial," Defense Attorney Bruce Smith said.

Smith is not an attorney on the case, but he has been involved in other intoxication manslaughter trials. He said the attorneys and judge in the case are second to none.

“Every single attorney, both on the state side and the defense side, are highly-experienced trial attorneys,” Smith said. "This case is going to be well tried. The attorneys know what they're doing. They know the rules of evidence. They know what can and cannot be presented to the jury. The defendant will have a fair trial."

Smith believes the defense will try to prove that intoxication did not play a role in the 2020 crash.

Credit: Jefferson County Sheriff's Office
Luis Torres

"From what I understand, there’s not going to be much question about whether the defendant was intoxicated,” Smith said. "The question is, did the death and accident occur by reason of the intoxication?"

The court is expected to review the dashcam video of the crash on Tuesday. Smith believes this will play into both arguments.

“For example, you did not veer out of the way,” Smith said. “You did not put on your brakes. You did not do something to avoid the collision. That's the type of cross-examination that a defense attorney would normally do."

Related: Beaumont Police officer killed by drunk driver honored in Sunday night balloon release

Officer Yarbrough-Powell graduated from Lumberton High School in 2015. She later graduated from Lamar University with a degree in criminal justice.

According to court documents, Torres had been drinking as Tequila’s Mexican Restaurant Bar and Grill in Port Arthur before the crash. At the time, Torres was underage.

Torres also faces an intoxication assault charge for seriously injuring Yarbrough-Powell's partner, Officer Gabriel Fells. That trial will take place at a later date.

This is a developing story. We will update with more if and when we receive more confirmed information.

Credit: KBMT
Beaumont Police officer Sheena Yarbrough Powell, 23, became the 18th Beaumont officer killed in the line of duty when she died early Sunday morning in a head-on wreck with a wrong-way driver.

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