Prominent Buda realtor pleads not guilty in trial

by Rachel Willis

Courtesy of the San Marcos Daily Record

With jury selection going on 13 hours, the trial of prominent Hays County realtor Jason Tarr commenced Tuesday afternoon with him pleading not guilty to second-degree intoxication manslaughter and first-degree murder.

Tarr’s defense and the state laid out the road maps to how the trial will go.

Family of the late Nancy Sterling-Dalton, who was killed when Tarr’s pickup hit her car head-on in September 2014, sat in the stands as the prosecution read the arraignment to Tarr who stared ahead listening.

The state began their opening remarks with the question, “What makes a DWI a murder?”

Assistant Criminal District Attorney Jennifer Stalbaum reminded jurors the state needs only prove that Tarr was intoxicated and that does not always imply the most obvious of signs.

“I’m going to tell you, it’s not going to be a falling over, throwing up drunk, there is going to be intoxication,” she said. “I want you to remember those definitions.”

The defense laid out their plans by asserting that no one contests that there was an accident that was caused by Tarr.

“The evidence will show there was a horrible accident,” Tarr’s defense lawyer Billy McNabb said. “Mr. Tarr left his lane of traffic, collided with the vehicle driven by Mrs. Dalton causing her death.”

McNabb went on saying the only relevant evidence in this case is the video from Officer Joshua Albarez’s body camera. In the video, defense said, Albanez remarks that he does not smell alcohol on Tarr.

The video also shows Tarr walking unassisted to the ambulance, which the defense said is evidence of Tarr’s sobriety.

“You are going to hear from some people at the hospital about his demeanor, his language at the hospital,” McNabb said. “The only thing that is going to be relevant in this case is his demeanor and whether or not he was intoxicated at the time of the accident, at the time he is alleged of operating the vehicle. Not two hours later.”

McNabb accused the officers investigating the scene of only suspecting intoxication after running Tarr’s criminal history and finding that he had two prior DWIs.

“When the officers found out he had prior DWIs the die was cast,” McNabb said. “The officers lost all objectivity about the investigation. It became, at that point, what we call a ‘self-fulfilling prophecy.’”

Defense purports that the warrant was granted on the report of an officer that was already convinced of Tarr’s intoxication and that the blood test was invalid because of human error within the Department of Public Safety (DPS) lab it was tested in.

“The blood was ultimately analyzed by a DPS lab, the same entity that employs the officers that have formed a suspicion and are investigating and arresting Jason for intoxication manslaughter.” McNabb said. “That’s the same lab as the police lab that did the blood analysis and I submit to you what the evidence will show,in the rush to convict Jason of this offense, the lab got the blood out of order.”

Trial is expected to last three weeks.

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