MERIDIAN, Texas (KWTX) A visiting judge who found a Clifton man guilty Wednesday afternoon in Meridian’s 220th District Court on six separate counts of manslaughter in connection with the deaths of three people in a 2017 traffic crash revised the verdict Thursday after he apparently made an invalid decision.
Christopher Lee Barry, 34, of Clifton, was found guilty Wednesday of three counts of intoxication manslaughter and three counts of reckless manslaughter stemming from a head-on crash on Nov. 16, 2017 on State Highway 6 north of Valley Mills that claimed the lives of Diego Heredia, 20, of Valley Mills, Taylor Bradley, 19, of Clifton and Griffin Anderson, 17, also of Clifton.
Barry chose to have a judge decide his guilt rather than a jury.
Retired visiting judge Frank Griffin, selected to hear the case after the local judge recused himself, revised the verdict he issued Wednesday and convicted Berry on the three reckless manslaughter charges.
The judge announced that he improperly found Barry guilty on both intoxication manslaughter and manslaughter charges because one is a lesser included charge of the other, although both are second-degree felonies, punishable by as much as 20 years in prison.
On Thursday the judge modified his decision and found Barry guilty of the three counts of reckless manslaughter and sentenced him to the maximum of 20 years in prison on each count.
The sentences will be served concurrently.
“It was a surprise verdict for us. It was a surprise to all of us to get the double guilty verdicts,” Sherrie Bradley, relative of one of the victims, said Wednesday.
Then after the final decision was announced Thursday, she said: “I feel a weight has been lifted off our shoulders,” Bradley said.
“We (the family) wish he had been sentenced to 20 years on each one, but at the same time we are glad we got as maximum verdict and we’re glad he’ll not be on the streets.”
"We're pleased with the sentence the judge gave him in the case and we believe the facts of this case justified sentencing him to 20 years in prison,” Bosque County District Attorney Adam Sibley said.
“We believe in this case justice was served."
Heredia, Bradley and Anderson were riding in a southbound 2008 Volkswagen Jetta Heredia was driving that collided head-on with a northbound Chevrolet Suburban driven by Barry, who was seriously injured.
The driver of the Suburban was passing two other northbound vehicles and entered a no passing zone before the crash, the Department of Public Safety said.
Heredia pulled onto the southbound shoulder of the highway in an attempt to avoid the crash, the DPS said, but the Suburban struck the Jetta head-on.
The Suburban ended up on the southbound right-of-way and the Jetta came to rest on the southbound shoulder.