Suzanne Williams: David Lane says fatal Brianna Gomez crash shouldn't be in criminal court

Last week, we told you about a Texas crash involving Senator Suzanne Williams; Brianna Gomez, who was seven months pregnant, died in the accident.

According to attorney David Lane, who represents Williams, the senator has no memory of the collision -- and while he acknowledges that the incident was horrific, he's seen no evidence to suggest that his client's conduct was criminal.

"For me, the main issue in the case is whether or not every human tragedy must have criminal charges that go with it," Lane says. "And sometimes, there are just human tragedies."

Williams's vehicle veered into oncoming traffic, Lane concedes, but he says she doesn't remember the crash itself. He adds that Hartley County District Attorney David Green, who may ask a grand jury to decide if there's enough evidence for criminal charges, "used to be a cop down in Texas, and he's investigated countless numbers of auto wrecks like this -- so he understands that with severe trauma like this, it's not at all uncommon to have no memory shortly before and after an accident like this. And that's where we're at."

In Lane's view, clues from the scene are unlikely to shed more light on the cause of the crash at this point. Likewise, he continues, "the toxicology report will show no alcohol or drug use, and the cell phone records will show no texting or talking."

As for potential causes, he speculates that "an animal may have darted into the road, she may have hit a pothole, she may have blown out a tire. There are a lot of possible explanations. So the issue becomes: Does this rise to the level of any criminal conduct? And to be criminally culpable, you have to be grossly negligent. Mere negligence isn't criminal conduct -- and I'm not saying she was necessarily negligent."

Even if she wasn't, the pressure to punish someone for Gomez's death is intense. But while Lane believes "the civil justice system will undoubtedly be put to work here, and compensation and liability may be assigned," he sees such proceedings as "very different from the criminal justice system."

A decision on charges should be made by early February, Lane predicts. In the meantime, Williams "is distraught," he says. "Her son remains in the hospital," as does Gomez's baby, delivered after the crash, who's reportedly in critical condition.

The senator "has this burden on her heart about poor Ms. Gomez and her family, and her instinct has been to reach out to the Gomezes," Lane notes. "But I've been the impediment to doing that in agreement with the DA. Her immediate reaction was, 'I need to talk with these people, sit down with them.' But I said, 'It's too soon. Let's run this through the prosecutor's office first.'"

Lane understands public opinion in this case. In his words, "people's knee-jerk reaction is that it's her fault, that she did something wrong. But the evidence is unclear as to what happened other than what we know happened -- that this is an incredible tragedy. And it's an incredible tragedy from Suzanne Williams's perspective, too."

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
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