HUNTSVILLE, Ala. -- A former NASA space shuttle commander charged in a fatal 2016 crash wants a court to disallow any reference to his prior DUI conviction, arguing no alcohol was found in his system following the 2016 crash, records show.
James Halsell’s attorneys argued the crash that killed two sisters off U.S. 82 in June 2016 is different from Halsell's 2014 DUI in California because alcohol played no role in the crash.
Halsell is charged with reckless murder and assault in the deaths of 11-year-old Niomi James and 13-year-old Jayla Parler. The wreck injured two other of the girls' family members. The charges against Halsell allege he was under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance at the time of the crash.
In the California case, Halsell had a recorded blood alcohol level of .12 and pleaded guilty to a DUI, the defense told the court.
Prosecutors want to cite the prior DUI at Halsell’s trial, arguing it also involved his car hitting another vehicle. They contend he also admitted drinking alcohol before the Tuscaloosa crash.
The defense also argues that the first two law enforcement officers on the scene of the Tuscaloosa crash reported they did not smell alcohol coming off Halsell.
Back in 2016 investigators reported Halsell admitted to having three glasses of wine at a Motel 6 and said he didn't remember leaving the hotel. Investigators said they didn't find any evidence of drugs or alcohol in or around Halsell's vehicle, but they say they did find an empty bottle of wine and a 10-pack of sleeping pills that was empty inside his room at Motel 6.