Updated: Thursday, 21 Apr 2011, 11:51 AM MDT
Published : Tuesday, 19 Apr 2011, 6:01 PM MDT
SANTA FE, NM (KRQE) - The man, who admits he was drunk the night he collided with a car full of teens, killing four of them, was found not guilty Tuesday.
After a seven-day trial and 13 hours of deliberating the jury reached a verdict Tuesday evening.
“We find the defendant not guilty as charged in count one,” District Court Judge Michael Vigil read the verdict. When he was done Owens found out he was not guilty on all five counts.
Owens was facing four vehicular homicide charges and one charge of causing great bodily harm by motor vehicle.
The state argued Owens was driving drunk in the wrong lane and caused a wrong way crash with a car full of teens in 2009. Four of the teens died. Avree Koffman, the sober driver in the teens' car, survived.
However, the crash happened in Owens' lane. Owens' attorney argued it didn't matter if he was drunk, he was innocent. He told the jury another teen driving behind Koffman might be to blame and said she bumped the rear of Koffman’s car first that night, spinning her into Owens’ lane.
The jury asked to see the bumpers on the teens' cars again just hours before they came back with the not guilty verdict.
Family and friends of the teens who died also held back tears after they left the courtroom.
John Simmons’ daughter Rose died in the crash. She was only 15. He sat in the courtroom with Owens since jury selection began.
“It’s hard to believe that they came up with a not guilty,” Simmons said. He said despite the verdict he believes Owens was in the wrong that night.
“They couldn't prove that he did it without a doubt to the jury, but that’s fine, but without a doubt he in fact killed those kids,” Simmons said.
Simmons said sitting through the trial was excruciating but hearing Owens will walk was even harder. “He's not a free man necessarily. He's free to go out into the world. I don't think he's free,” Simmons said.
Owens will walk away from this case without even a DWI on his record despite admitting he was drunk. Prosecutors decided not include a DWI charge because they did not want to give the jury the opportunity to find Owens guilty solely on the lesser count.
Since the state decided to keep DWI off the table Owens cannot be charged with it now.