By Cass Rains, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle
ENID, Okla. —
A Garfield County jury deliberated for nearly four hours Friday before convicting an Enid man on two charges related to a fatal accident in 2010.
Vincent Blaine Sixkiller stood beside his attorneys, Josh Lee and Evans Chambers, as the verdict was read following a weeklong trial. The jury returned guilty verdicts of first-degree manslaughter and DUI with great bodily injury.
Sixkiller was charged Nov. 18, 2010, in the death of Robert Ukena and severe injury of Michelle Schartz, caused by a four-vehicle crash at about 2:04 a.m. on West Willow five days earlier.
Before the verdict was read, District Judge Paul Woodward warned those in the nearly full courtroom against any outbursts.
“I want you to keep your emotions in check,” the judge said.
The jury recommended Sixkiller serve eight years on the manslaughter charge and four years on the DUI charge.
He faced at least four years imprisonment on the manslaughter charge and a fine of up to $5,000, and imprisonment for one to five years on the DUI charge.
After the verdict was read and the jury polled at Chambers’ request, Schartz, who’d been in court most of the week, broke into tears. Friends and family members in court to support Sixkiller also began to cry.
Sixkiller was taken into custody of the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office. He had been free on $50,000 bond.
The day began with the defense resting its case and Assistant District Attorney Irene Asai calling a rebuttal witness to the stand.
Asai recalled Paul Wallace, forensic toxicologist and supervisor for Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation’s toxicology section.
The defense had presented two expert witnesses Thursday, disputing the results of blood alcohol tests conducted by Wallace on blood taken from Sixkiller following the Nov. 13, 2010, collision.
Wallace testified if a bacteria was able to make it into the blood sample and ferment, it’s impact on the testing result would not be that great.
He said in a worst-case scenario, where cultured bacteria were placed in a blood vial in a test, the bacteria were able to produce 0.05 of alcohol in the sample.
“Once the sugar is consumed there is no more fuel for alcohol production,” Wallace said.
Asai asked Wallace about “bumps” seen on gas chromatographs produced by the machine used to test Sixkiller’s blood.
Wallace said the “bumps” were just noise, and not peaks indicating the presence of alcohol, as was proffered by the defense.
Lee asked Wallace if it was possible for the same noise to appear randomly in multiple samples, including tests meant to calibrate the gas chromatograph.
“In my opinion, that’s just noise,” Wallace replied.
Asai began her closing statement by telling jurors Sixkiller was guilty of first-degree manslaughter and DUI with great bodily injury.
“You will come to on undeniable conclusion in this case, and that is that the defendant is guilty,” she said.
Asai referred to the testimony of Enid Police Department Officer Jeff Suttmiller, who told the court he estimated Sixkiller’s speed at the time of the collision at 55-60 mph in the 45 mph zone. She also recalled the testimony of Sgt. Kevin Bezdicek, who said he saw Sixkiller swaying, noted slurred speech, red and watery eyes and an odor of alcohol on his breath.
“He (Sixkiller) comes up with a story, a preposterous story, he’d been driving westbound, but he’s pointing east, and got hit by another vehicle,” Asai said. “The physical evidence says that’s not what happened.”
Asai said two people involved in the wreck testified to seeing Sixkiller still attempting to drive his pickup following the collision.
She then asked the jury who they would trust more: Wallace, who conducts 500 blood-alcohol tests a year, or experts who look at a piece of paper and criticize?
“What happened Nov. 13, 2010, was not an accident. Sure, accidents happen. But, this was not an accident,” Asai said. “This happened because this defendant went out and got drunk and made the decision to get behind the wheel.
“It is time, on Dec. 7, 2012, to hold this defendant accountable. Your common sense brings you to one conclusion: this defendant is guilty.”
Chambers referred jurors to statements from his opening on Tuesday, asking them to look for contradictions in the state’s case.
“We accept the responsibility for negligence,” he said. “It seems to me she is telling you that every accident that occurs is caused by a drunk driver.”
Chambers said the state presented no evidence of Sixkiller drinking the night of the accident.
“There is no evidence beer had anything to do with this,” he told the jury.
Chambers also said the state never questioned the nurse who drew blood from Sixkiller about seeing signs of intoxication. Neither were emergency responders or firefighters at the scene called to testify.
“I wonder why?” he asked the jury.
Chambers said the collision of Nov. 13, 2010, was an accident.
“This is an accident and a man died. That’s sad. It really is,” he said. “The state’s evidence shows what occurred out there was negligent homicide. There is no question in my mind this is negligent homicide.”
Chambers asked jurors to exercise their right to find his client guilty of the lesser misdemeanor of negligent homicide, and to exercise their judgment on count two.