High-profile DWI case dropped

April 6, 2013

She gets to walk.

Camille Dyer Matthews, a former law student with connections to the Hood County justice system who spent only minutes in custody after a DWI arrest, will not be brought to trial for one simple reason: The state trooper did not write the time of the traffic stop when he obtained a search warrant for her blood.

The glitch means that the results of her blood test – a draw that was forced by warrant after she refused field sobriety tests – cannot be used as evidence in court.

“I had a solid case,” County Attorney Lori Kaspar said late Thursday after receiving word that Erath County Court-at-Law Judge Bart McDougal had granted the defense’s motion, thus effectively killing her case. “People don’t try to suppress blood evidence unless there’s something to suppress. There’s no reason to suppress unless the evidence is damaging to you.”

McDougal got involved in the case because of a change of venue request due to publicity. Defense attorneys also had filed a motion to suppress “any tangible evidence seized in connection with this case, including but not limited to Defendant’s blood.”

A hearing on the defense’s motions was held in McDougal’s courtroom at the Erath County courthouse on March 21. The judge halted the hearing in order to review defense attorneys’ claims that the blood test results should not be admissible because of the issue regarding the time of the traffic stop. McDougal told the parties that he would rule on April 3 or shortly after.

A staffer in the judge’s office told the Hood County News that the judge had sent letters to Kaspar, the defense attorneys and the Hood County Clerk on Wednesday. Kaspar said she received her letter on Thursday.

Here is what McDougal’s letter said: “After hearing evidence and argument of counsel the Court is of the opinion that Defendant’s Motion to Suppress should be granted. It is therefore ORDERED that evidence seized pursuant to the search warrant in the above referenced case is excluded. Thank you for your work in this case.”

The defense team’s argument for suppression was based on the 2010 case Crider v. State. A description of that case is posted on the website of the Texas District & County Attorney Association.

the traffic stop

At the time of the traffic stop on the night of Saturday, July 7, Matthews’ mother, Natalie Matthews, worked in the office of the district clerk. She was driving the vehicle just ahead of her daughter’s when her daughter was pulled over on South Morgan Street. The two had just left Rio Brazos Music Hall. Natalie Matthews immediately phoned three judges.

Precinct 2 Justice of the Peace Martin Castillo, one of the judges who got a call from Natalie, went to the Law Enforcement Center (LEC) after 2 a.m. and did an arraignment for Camille. That arraignment meant that she did not spend time in a jail cell. According to Sheriff’s Office records, she spent 46 minutes in custody.

In addition to the misdemeanor DWI charge, Camille Matthews also was charged with unlawful carrying of a weapon. She has a license to carry a concealed weapon, but the DWI arrest made it illegal for her to have the weapon in her possession.

Matthews’ drivers license was revoked during an Administrative License Revocation hearing in Fort Worth on Oct. 31.

On Feb. 14, she was granted an occupational driver’s license by McDougal. Kaspar’s signature, signifying her agreement, is on the order. It granted Matthews permission to drive between the hours of 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. Mondays through Fridays; from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturdays; and during several specified times on Sundays. Per the order, she is allowed to shop at clothing stores and go to restaurants.

State Trooper Thomas Anderson had testified that he had followed Camille Matthews for 4.9 miles and observed her swerving slightly, following too closely to the vehicle in front of her and, at one point, driving 10 miles over the speed limit.

Anderson testified that when he approached Matthews’ vehicle, there was a strong smell of alcohol. He said that the young woman’s eyes appeared “glassy and bloodshot” and her speech was “slightly slurred.”

In his offense report, Anderson wrote that just prior to her blood being drawn, Matthews “stated that she had taken Adderall earlier that day. She stated that she had taken four Adderall because she was studying for a test. Matthews indicated that this was more than her normal dose.”

suppression

By law, Kaspar has leeway on whether to release Matthews’ Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC). She has chosen not to do so.

“The law allows me the discretion, and I just don’t think there’s any value in releasing that information,” she explained. “Her case is over. She’s not going to have a DWI conviction. It’s really not anybody’s business since that evidence has been suppressed.”

The Hood County News is working to obtain Matthews’ BAC from the Texas Department of Public Safety.

Although the HCN does not typically report in such detail on misdemeanor offenses, Camille Matthews’ case was unique because of the appearance of possible preferential treatment.

Kaspar said that she will be reviewing all other pending DWI cases and will cut the same break to any other defendants if the same issue is present in those cases as the one that allowed Camille Matthews to walk free.

“It’s not fair to everybody else,” she said of what happened in that case.

[email protected] | 817-573-7066, ext. 258.

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