A Richland County jury deliberated, but made no decision Thursday evening whether to make the former owner of Loose Cockaboose Sports bar pay the parents of 6-year-old Emma Longstreet damages for the death of their daughter, who was killed by a drunk driver who had left the bar and was driving in an intoxicated state.
The jury will resume deliberations in the civil trial at 9 a.m. Friday.
Before beginning to deliberate, the jury heard arguments from Longstreet family lawyer Wally Fayssoux, who reminded the jury that Billy Patrick Hutto, the drunk driver who killed Emma, had testified earlier to having three vodka-cranberries at the Loose Cockaboose several hours before his Jeep struck the Longstreet family car as they were on their way to church Jan. 1, 2012.
Hutto, 30, who is serving a 10-year prison sentence for killing Emma, testified Tuesday and told the jury he consumed the three drinks at Loose Cockaboose, as well as numerous other drinks earlier at two bars in Columbia’s Vista, Jillian’s and the Big Ugly, which is now closed.
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But a lawyer for the Loose Cockaboose, Andrew Watson, argued to the jury that Hutto’s testimony was not reliable and there was not enough convincing evidence to prove the sports bar had served any liquor to Hutto.
During the trial, which began Monday, lawyers for the Longstreet family put up some 20 witnesses, including expert witness former SLED chief toxicologist David Eagerton, who testified that a scientific analysis of alcohol blood samples from Hutto taken two hours after the fatal crash showed that he had to have consumed several alcoholic drinks during the three undisputed hours he spent at Loose Cockaboose.
To collect damages, the Longstreets must convince the jury that the bar was negligent and broke state law in serving alcohol to an obviously intoxicated Hutto, who was a repeat DUI offender.
At the time of incident, the Loose Cockaboose was owned by Kelly Whitlock. She is a defendant in the case, along with the bar, but is no longer the owner.
In the crash, which happened in the town of Lexington, Emma was killed, her father David Longstreet suffered a broken neck, and the Longstreets’ three sons – Noah, Micah and Levi – were seriously injured. David Longstreet and his wife Karen both testified this week.
The trial is taking place in Richland County because that is where the Loose Cockaboose is located.
Since the incident, the Longstreets, victims’ activists and lawmakers worked to pass Emma’s Law. It toughens provisions against drunk drivers.