After five days of making its case, the prosecution rested today against Gabrielle Jane Nestande, the daughter of a veteran Orange County politician and GOP insider fighting to stay out of a Texas prison for following a night of drinking with driving into a pedestrian who died and leaving the scene.
Text messages, surveillance video, police interviews, witness testimony and reconstruction of the accident scene were among the evidence presented to a jury that will decide the fate of the 25-year-old daughter of Newport Beach's Bruce Nestande.
What follows are 10 reasons things look badly at this hour for the defense of the former high school tennis player and sailing instructor whose former Orange County supervisor and assemblyman father just six years ago escorted her to a Newport Beach debutante ball:
– No sobriety test was administered to Gabby Nestande after her damaged BMW was found at her boyfriend's house in May 2011, so the prosecution has explored other ways to prove she had been drinking heavily in Austin the night before the early morning accident that killed 30-year-old Courtney Griffin, who had been walking in a bike lane in nearby Tarrytown. A witness who works as a lobbyist in the state capital testified today that Gabby, a legislative aide, sent her a text message that night saying she drank five beers and later hit a deer.
– Witnesses who had been at the same bar and knew who Gabby told the court Thursday she appeared drunk, with one referring to her as "sloppy." Based on the way she was stumbling out of the bar, she needed to be helped, testified one witness, who on cross-examination acknowledged Gabby's high heels could have made walking difficult also. The pitch of her voice was louder than anyone else in the establishment, that witness testified.
– Based on bar tabs, witness statements and surveillance video, it was determined
Gabby had been in the same bar for four hours and took her last shot at
11:21 p.m., 10 minutes before she left.
– A police sergeant testified today the residential area of the accident was well lit. The cop on Friday testified there were no skid marks on the 35mph stretch of Exposition Boulevard where the accident happened. Branches nearby indicated Griffin had been thrown through a bush, and her shoe and broken car glass was in the driveway where a homeowner found the body.
– When the cop arrived at the home of Gabby's boyfriend, where the officer had been told a car was parked that appeared to have been in an accident, he saw what appeared to be hair and clothing in the BMW's cracked windshield and an empty Miller Lite bottle in the backseat.
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– An accident reconstructionist for the prosecution said today the driver would have had 13 seconds to see Griffin and avoid her, which a sober driver could have done. A reconstructionist for the defense countered the driver could have experienced glare and not expected to see a pedestrian in the bike lane. The defense has pointed out there was a sidewalk next to the bike lane Griffin could have walked on.
– An expert testified today that Griffin's DNA was found on Gabby's cracked windshield. Video shown Friday revealed a significant amount of blood on the late nanny's body, producing a gasp in courtroom, the exit of her family members and Gabby dropping her head into her hand. The Travis County medical examiner testified Friday that several skull fractures were among Griffin's injuries, which along with the BMW damage indicated she'd been hit from behind and rendered unconscious immediately.
– Gabby's boyfriend, William Marchbanks, was not forthcoming and could not
answer questions about basic details, according to the police sergeant who testified Friday and Monday. A different
friend told the cop Nestande told him someone threw something at her car
that night. Another friend mentioned a deer but told the policemen,
when pressed, Gabby admitted to having hit a person. Marchbanks said Gabby told him "she
couldn't get that image out of her head."
– After talking with Marchbanks, the police sergeant videotaped an interview with Nestande in her office for Texas state Rep. Wayne
Christian. Shown to the jury, the tape has Nestande talking about her background, how she got into politics, whether the governor she campaigned for, Rick Perry, would run for president–and then how she'd been
told not to talk to anyone until she had a lawyer. At that time, the cop felt she could be arrested for failing to stop and render aid but, until move evidence was collected, not for driving while intoxicated.
– Gabby called her family in Newport Beach from the Texas jail house that held her, according to an audio recording playing in court Thursday. "Mom, I'm in jail" she is heard telling her mother. "I will never drink again," she comments when her sister Francesca Nestande gets on the line. The Lone Star media portrayed as a "bombshell" an apparent contradiction of Gabby's assertions she did not know right away she hit a person. Francesca: "Did you know at all, how drunk were you?" Gabby: "Yes I did know." Francesca: "You knew?" Gabby: "I wasn't, yes I did I know what happened."
Matt Coker has been engaging, enraging and entertaining readers of newspapers, magazines and websites for decades. He spent the first 13 years of his career in journalism at daily newspapers before "graduating” to OC Weekly in 1995 as the paper’s first calendar editor. He went on to be managing editor, executive editor and is now senior staff writer.