A jury on Friday found driver Rashad Owens guilty of capital murder, the latest in a lingering blemish for South-by-Southwest (SXSW). Last year, Owens plowed his car through the festival crowd killing four people and injuring several others. Authorities said the crash occurred after Owens fled police during an attempted midnight traffic stop.
The verdict means the 23-year-old Owens will automatically spend the rest of his life in prison without the chance of parole. Prosecutors did not seek the death penalty against Owens, perhaps resulting in the worst punishment of all — a long, lonely life behind bars.
‘…the defendant knew what he was doing — and he didn’t care.‘
Authorities said Owens intended to kill with malice as he drove into bodies sending them in the air, leaving nearly 30 injured victims. “There is no other answer than that the defendant knew what he was doing — and he didn’t care,” prosecutor Amy Meredith told jurors.
Owens by-passed a police check point on March 13th, 2014, whilst driving intoxicated. He drove at approximately 55 mph through crowds of people until his car crashed. According to officers that testified, Owens then left the vehicle and tried to flee the scene before police caught him.
Owen’s lawyers said he never intended to kill anyone and made a terrible mistake after he panicked while being pursued by police.
SXSW is an annual spring event that draws tens of thousands of people to the Texas capital every year. Though the driver himself is certainly to blame for the maulings, the lingering question is why Austin police pursued a high-speed car chase in a crowded festival environment.