BEAUMONT – A 2014 murder conviction has been reversed by the 9th Court of Appeals in Beaumont, who concluded that a lower court erred by not including a lesser offense instruction.
Kelvin Lee Roy was convicted by a jury, resulting in the assessment of a punishment of 75 years in prison. Roy then filed an appeal on two issues, challenging the sufficiency of the evidence, and the denial of his request for a jury instruction on the lesser included offense of manslaughter.
Roy was charged with the death of Alexandria Bertrand, which was the result of a vehicle collision while Roy was allegedly driving under the influence. According to the former girlfriend of Roy, Taralynn Brown, Roy was driving her vehicle on the night of the offense. It was said that Roy had lit a PCP-dipped cigarette during the drive. While driving, court documents state that Roy refused to pull over after driving in two lanes and nearly striking the side of the freeway as well as other vehicles, telling Brown “I’m going to kill us both.”
Brown also testified that Roy continued to drive recklessly and that she begged him to stop before “flying in the air and crashing.” Roy then crashed into a vehicle that was occupied by April and Alexandria Bertrand, resulting in the death of Alexandria.
While other witnesses testified seeing Roy drive recklessly before crashing, Roy claims that he became dizzy and told Brown to take the steering wheel before passing out. Roy also claimed that he had no recollection of speeding or the accident itself. Roy’s blood tested positive for benzodiazepine, phencyclidine (PCP), and T.H.C., while his blood alcohol level was well below the legal limit.
The Court of Criminal Appeals found that Roy was entitled to an instruction on manslaughter because the jury could have rationally found that Roy was guilty of only manslaughter.
"The court explained that Roy presented evidence that he was aware of, but consciously disregarded, the risk of causing an accident and that the death occurred as a result of the same conduct," according to court documents.
The court also decided that a trial court’s "refusal to submit a lesser-included offense that was requested and raised by the evidence results in harm when that failure leaves the jury with the sole option to either convict the defendant of a greater offense or to acquit him."
It was noted that the jury was limited to either finding Roy guilty of murder or acquitting him.
The court of appeals concluded that the trial court’s refusal of Roy’s requested instruction on the lesser- included offense of manslaughter resulted in harm. Therefore, the court reversed the judgment of the trial court and remanded the case for future proceedings.