Roger Dale Guess was sentenced to 99 years in prison Friday for felony driving while intoxicated, which was at least his sixth conviction. The "habitual offender," who was on parole for DWI, was sentenced by a Smith County jury after about 45 minutes of deliberation in 241st District Judge Jack Skeen Jr.'s court. On Thursday.
The "habitual offender," who was on parole for DWI, was sentenced by a Smith County jury after about 45 minutes of deliberation in 241st District Judge Jack Skeen Jr.'s court. On Thursday. Guess, 48, Kilgore, was convicted of DWI after a trooper found him sitting in his van stuck in the mud on the side of the highway at about 2 a.m. on May 18.
The sentencing range of two to 10 years in prison was enhanced to a 25-year-to-life prison term because he has at least two prior felony DWI convictions. Guess will have to serve 15 years before he becomes eligible for parole.
The jurors found that Guess was intoxicated while driving on May 18 and that he had been convicted of misdemeanor DWI offenses in Tarrant County in 1988 and in Smith County in 1996. They also found Guess has been convicted of two felony DWI charges in Gregg County in 1997 and 2004. Guess is on parole until 2014.
During closing arguments in the punishment trial, Assistant Smith County District Attorney Guy Conine said Guess was so drunk that when he exited Interstate 20, he missed the turn and drove straight off of the road and got stuck in the mud. He said although the defendant pleaded not true to his two prior felony convictions, the jurors were shown certified court documents proving he was convicted, making him a "habitual offender."
Conine said Guess has earned a life sentence and the jurors needed to get the "very dangerous man" off the streets. He said Guess would continue to drink and drive and put everyone in Smith County in "grave danger." Guess has had his probation revoked twice and was on parole at the time of the May 18 offense, he said, adding that the defendant has had a drinking problem since the 1980s.
"There's one way to stop him and that's by putting him in prison for as long as we can; and that's life," Conine said.
Defense attorney Don Davidson said the jurors needed to consider three things with their verdict: the whole range of punishment, the whole evidence before them and the whole person they were sentencing.
He said Guess has pleaded guilty to all of his other charges and has been sentenced for those cases so it was time for the jury to sentence him for this offense. He said no one was hurt when Guess ran off the road into the embankment and got stuck in the mud. He said the jurors must consider the evidence that was there and not hypothetical evidence, such as Guess hurting people in the future.
"He has a drinking problem, no doubt," Davidson said, but Guess is a son, father, grandfather, hard worker and "a man with a big heart who helps other people."
He said he believed it was appropriate to sentence Guess somewhere in the low end of the punishment range.
"Does he have to kill somebody before we give him life?" Conine asked. Guess' problem has become "all of our problem," he said.
Texas Department of Public Safety Trooper Robert Johnson stopped to help Guess, who was stuck on the side of the highway. Guess said he didn't need any help and he had called someone but after Johnson smelled alcohol, he administered field sobriety tests and arrested him. Guess was sitting in the driver's seat but the ignition key was not found. Guess refused to take a Breathalyzer test. Jurors watched the hourlong video of the incident taken from Johnson's in-car camera.
According to Gregg County records, Guess was convicted of misdemeanor possession of marijuana charges in 1996 and 2004. In Smith County, he was convicted of misdemeanor assault/family violence in 2002.
By CASEY KNAUPP
Saturday, October 25, 2008