Accused drunken driver's trial reset after two jury panels dismissed

Prospective jurors wrestle with consideration of punishment range

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SAN ANTONIO – A district judge dismissed two jury panels this week in the case of a woman charged in a drunken driving crash that killed two people and critically injured another.

Sylvia Herrera, 29, is charged with two counts of intoxication manslaughter and one count of intoxication assault.

Police said Herrera rear-ended a car at the intersection to Loop 410 and Highway 151 on Father's Day weekend in 2015.

The victims were employees at Cheddars Restaurant who had just finished their shifts when the crash occurred.

Marie Molina, 21, Nicholas Ramirez, 22, were killed. Keeenan Peterson, 22, was critically injured. 

Herrera has been free on bond awaiting trial, which was scheduled to begin this week.

But the case was reset for mid-August after District Judge Jefferson Moore dismissed a jury panel on Monday and Tuesday.

Members of both jury panels indicated they couldn't consider the full range of punishment in the case, from a minimum of probation to a maximum of 20 years in prison.

Moore, who is prohibited from discussing the specifics of the case, said jurors in such cases are asked, "Just knowing the charge alone, can you consider probation for this serious matter?"  

"And some people are unable to do that," Moore said. 

Although having to dismiss jurors in similar situations is not unusual, Moore said it seldom happens with two juries.

Robert "Bobby" Barrera, who is past president of the San Antonio Bar Association, said that cases like Herrera's are tough for a jury.

"It's a very emotional consideration that the juries struggle with, that the max they can give is 20 years or that the person may be entitled to probation," he said.

About the Author:

Paul Venema is a courthouse reporter for KSAT with more than 25 years experience in the role.