ALAMOGORDO, N.M. (KRQE) – For the first time, the public heard directly from the former New Mexico State Police officer on trial for charges of driving drunk and hiding the key to her truck to get out of an arrest. She was the last witness before both sides made their closing arguments. Now, the case is in the hands of the jury.
“Will you tell the jury your name please?” she was asked on the witness stand. “Yes, it’s Jessica Turner,” she introduced herself.
Jessica Turner testified in Otero County District Court Wednesday about what happened in February 2018, when she is charged with driving under the influence and tampering with evidence. “Do you know what happened to the keys?” Turner’s defense attorney, Gary Mitchell, asked her.
“No, I do not,” she responded. Turner worked for State Police at the time of the incident. Before that, she worked for the Otero County Sheriff’s Office.
Former coworkers, Otero County deputies, found her unresponsive slumped over the steering wheel of a white pickup truck after they had gotten a 911 call about a drunk driver in a white pickup truck. Turner was parked at an overlook off of Highway 82 outside of Alamogordo. She told jurors that long before that 911 call came in, she had pulled over to rest after getting severe chest pains because of an autoimmune disease she has.
“When I feel it coming in, I knew I needed to pull over and handle it, so that’s what I did,” she testified. Turner also admitted to drinking a glass and a half of wine about five hours before driving. Prosecutors addressed that and the medications she takes, raising concerns over impaired driving.
“The warning for Xanax is not to drive… correct?” Prosecutor James Dickens asked. “Correct,” Turner replied.
Otero County Undersheriff Sean Jett told the jury that on the scene, Turner was swaying, slurring her speech and smelled like alcohol. “Did she ever mention that she was suffering from any sort of medical condition?” the prosecutor asked.
“No, sir,” he responded.
“Unfortunately Ms. Turner, you’re being placed under arrest for driving while intoxicated,” a deputy is heard in the police video, telling Turner in 2018.
However, after Turner objected, deputies decided not to arrest her after all because no one witnessed her driving and they said they didn’t see her key. A deputy gave Turner a ride home. Prosecutors say the key was in the ignition when officers first arrived, saying that is the only way the truck would make the dinging sound, heard on police video when the driver door was opened.
Undersheriff Jett also testified that it put everyone in a precarious and uncomfortable position when they recognized that Turner was behind the wheel.
In response to criticism that it was a conflict of interest to investigate a former coworker, he said, “Well, who else was gonna conduct this investigation? Everybody in this jurisdiction knows Officer Turner. We all have a very long history with her. I’m not making excuses. I’m saying it did in fact change the way that investigation was conducted.”