Jury convicts Gonzales man in drunk driving fatal crash

A Gonzales man accused of drunken driving was convicted of vehicular homicide Thursday for a crash in fall 2012 that killed a Prairieville woman.

Ashton Claiborne, 30, 2212 S. Robert Ave., Gonzales, faces five to 30 years in prison following his conviction by a six-person Ascension Parish jury after a three-day trial.

The three-vehicle crash the morning of Sept. 28, 2012, killed Carolyn Brouillette, 56, of Prairieville, and shut La. 73 between Airline Highway and La. 42 most of that day.

State troopers have said Brouillette was driving a 2013 Lincoln south on La. 73 when Claiborne tried to pass her in a no-passing zone on the two-lane road also known as Old Jefferson Highway.

Claiborne’s sport utility vehicle crashed head-on into a 2012 Mack truck, which then hit Brouillette’s vehicle, troopers have reported.

“That’s what we proved,” District Attorney Ricky Babin said of the case Thursday.

Brouillette was pronounced dead after being taken to the hospital the day of the crash.

Claiborne and the driver of the truck were injured.

Babin said blood tests taken three hours after the crash found Claiborne had a blood-alcohol content of 0.09 percent. Under state law, a blood-alcohol content of 0.08 percent is considered presumptive evidence of drunken driving for those 21 and older.

In pretrial motions, Judge Ralph Tureau, of the 23rd Judicial District Court, who presided over the trial, ruled prosecutors could not raise Claiborne’s prior driving while intoxicated arrest or other charges.

Claiborne was arrested on a first-offense DWI count in East Baton Rouge Parish eight months before the fatal 2012 crash and was found to have a 0.155 percent blood-alcohol level.

Babin said witnesses called to the stand included Brouillette’s son and Claiborne’s mother. He said Claiborne did not take the stand.

After about an hour of deliberations Thursday, jurors sent out a note asking for the definitions of vehicular homicide and the lesser charge of negligent homicide, court minutes say.

The jury ultimately returned the verdict of vehicular homicide, the charge prosecutors sought. Tureau set Claiborne’s sentencing for 9 a.m. June 9 and put his post-conviction bail at $80,000, minutes say.

Claiborne also faces a count of vehicle negligent injuring for the Mack truck driver’s injuries from the crash.

That charge is still pending, online records show.

The January 2012 misdemeanor first-offense DWI count in East Baton Rouge Parish was dismissed in December after Claiborne reportedly finished a pre-trial intervention program, online records say.

But prosecutors there recharged Claiborne in January. His defense attorney, Stephen Sterling III, is trying to quash the charge. Sterling was not immediately available for comment Thursday.