Editor’s Note: Below is a live blog of the court proceedings. An overview of the essay can be found at the bottom of this article.
Judge Austin Jackson sent the jury to lunch until 1:15 p.m. Director Clark will still be at the helm.
Manager Clark says that when he arrested Hampton for manslaughter, Hampton smelled like he had been drinking.
He also saw footage of Hampton “doing donuts” when they stopped to refuel the boat on the water before the crash. An area that is a “no-wake zone”.
The jury sees photos of the boat taken in the middle of the night after the accident.
Amber Mettlen and Daniel have been in the courtroom for several minutes after testifying earlier this morning.
A woman who was on the boat was interviewed by Clark four hours later. She said Hampton was “acting a little crazy and not paying attention” at the time of the accident. Also that he had been drinking.
The woman believed the boat was going “at least 40 miles per hour” at the time of the collision.
Director Clark said the trauma Roberto suffered “made it clear” that this was an instant death Roberto suffered.
Game Warden Brad Clark is next to testify. He was sent to search for the boat and was also the lead investigator on the case.
Daniel described the graphic injuries to Roberto’s head to end his testimony. When he described them, two members of the jury put their hands to their mouths. Hampton wiped away a few tears.
The defense had no questions.
The jury showed a photo of Daniel holding Roberto’s body.
The image is so graphic that ADA Coltman does not show the entire courtroom on the projector. He handed it to each member of the jury instead.
Daniel testified that he pushed Hunter and Amber Mettlen out of the way of the boat just before the boat crossed the dock.
Mettlen’s testimony ends by saying that he does not believe the way the boat was driven was due to inexperience, but rather recklessness.
Next is a man named Daniel, who was also on the lake. We are not sure of his surname. It looked like Bendigo or Padilla.
“You’re supposed to go 4 miles an hour, not 50 [by the pier]. I don’t know exactly how fast it was going, but it was faster than [my boat].” -Mettlen Hunter
The defense asked if this was the first time someone with a boat near that area had been reckless.
Mettlen said no and that was a common problem.
The region tried to add additional security features. The prosecution is now in redirection.
Not much else than telling him like the other witnesses that the boat was reckless.
Questioning now to the defense.
15 minute break right now. Hunter Mettlen still at the helm.
Mettlen said he could “easily see where the propellers had gone through” Roberto’s body.
“There was no way out. We just missed it. -Hunter Mettlen, describing what happened before the crash.
Mettlen’s questioning passed to the defense.
Brief questions again from the defence. Mainly on game warden stops which are common on the lake.
Next is Amber Mettlen, who was at the lake with her two sons and cousin. It was on one side of the pier when the boat crashed there.
She testifies that someone on the boat shouted “move” just before the crash on the pier.
Warden Temple describes the scene as “horrible”.
Questioning passed to the defence.
“I saw the victim with a white sheet over him and parts of the victim on the pier.” -Guardian Zach Temple
Deputy Ray says he had to hold Roberto’s mother when he was brought down. He says she was crying, saying he “was a good boy” and that Roberto wanted to be a vet.
Deputy Ray’s questioning passed to the defense.
Deputy Ray was sent to the scene of the accident because he was the only one on active duty who spoke Spanish and all of the witnesses spoke only Spanish.
He described the scene as “chaotic…the witnesses were very distraught”.
ADA Coltman is finished after about 12 or 13 minutes.
Next is defense attorney Mishae Boren. She begins by saying, “There are no good words to describe what happened. It’s a tragedy.
“The defendant’s boat passes straight through this jetty with a crowd of children in the water… Carlos has his little sister, tried to get out of the way. But he could not. -ADA Noah Coltman
Coltman also says he was killed instantly but was able to save his 2-year-old sister’s life.
Coltman tells the jury they are asking for a life sentence for Hampton. He says the evidence from that day is worth it, but also for several previous felony convictions.
ADA Coltman warns the jury that he will see things “no one should have to see…some of the evidence is graphic”.
ADA Noah Coltman begins with the state opening statement.
Judge Jackson calls the court to order and summons the jury.
The jury is made up of:
- 5 white men
- 4 white women
- 3 black women
TYLER, Texas (KETK) – The sentencing trial of a Tyler man charged with manslaughter begins Tuesday morning just days after pleading guilty to a deadly shipwreck on Lake Palestine in 2019 that killed a teenager.
Jeffrey Hampton, 34, admitted his guilt on Thursday, April 14, but chose to have a jury decide his fate for sentencing.
While manslaughter is normally a second-degree felony in Texas, the range of penalties is extended to a first-degree felony due to Hampton’s criminal history. This means the jury will decide on a sentence of five to 99 years, instead of two to 20.
The fatal accident killed a 14-year-old boy Roberto Carlos Bermejo Hernandez as he stood on a dock. He had just finished middle school at Moore Middle School in Tyler.
Assistant District Attorney Noah Coltman announced in the 114th District Court during the guilty plea last week that he would add special instructions to the jury to determine whether Hampton used the boat as a lethal weapon. This would affect how long Hampton would wait until he was eligible for parole for whatever sentence the jury assigned him.
Lawyers for both sides as well as court staff hope the trial can be completed on Wednesday.