Trial began Monday for a former El Paso boxer accused of killing three people while driving drunk and speeding on Christmas Eve in 2014.
Joel Garcia is facing three counts of intoxication manslaughter. He allegedly told police he drank at least five beers and two shots prior to a deadly collision that night when he was 24-years-old.
Authorities say Garcia’s car was traveling at a speed of 95 miles an hour when it ran a red light at the intersection of Joe Battle and Vista Del Sol in east El Paso and struck another car.
Brothers Joshua and Isaiah Deal, along with Shannon Del Rio, were inside the vehicle that was hit and all three died as a result of the fiery crash.
In opening arguments, the prosecution said the victims had spent the night celebrating Christmas with their family, while Garcia spent it bar-hoping on the city’s east side. They urged jurors to hold Garcia responsible for the consequences of his actions.
But in its opening, the defense told jurors the crash was simply a tragic accident – possibly the result of distracted driving – and sought to cast doubt on claims that Garcia was intoxicated.
Three prosecution witnesses testified Monday, including first responders who said that Garcia’s eyes were glazed over.
A crash eyewitness also testified that Garcia’s car sped by hers, ran the red light, and t-boned the other car in the intersection with incredible force. Jennifer Loera said in the moments that followed the collision, Garcia was preoccupied with the damage to his own car, appeared to be drunk and passed out. Jurors also heard the tape of Loera’s bone-chilling call to 9-1-1 reporting the fiery crash.
Jurors were expected to hear more prosecution testimony on Tuesday, including from bartenders who served Garcia on the night of the crash.
At the center of the case was a police blood test conducted on Garcia at the hospital following the crash. The blood was drawn without officers obtaining a search warrant and the state’s highest appeals court later ruled the test results cannot be used as evidence during trial.
The legal fight between both sides over that issue delayed the start of the trial for several years.
Authorities have noted that Garcia had an earlier arrest in 2014, prior to the deadly crash, for driving while intoxicated.