An appeals court denied an Elkhorn woman’s request for a new trial after a jury convicted her in 2016 of two homicide charges following a double-fatal crash the year before.
Late in the morning of Aug. 7, 2015, Brittney R. Dixon, now 25, was driving on Highway 11 in Elkhorn when she struck a pedestrian, Norman Brummel, 85, pinning him against a parked trailer. Brummel died, and Dixon’s passenger and friend, Estefania Martinez, 22, died of her injuries from the crash eight days later.
Dixon said she and Martinez had used cocaine and marijuana before going to bed at about 3:30 a.m., according to background on the case provided in the appellate court’s decision.
Dixon had argued she was not feeling any effects of the drugs, but a toxicologist testified the amount of substances in her system suggested she ingested cocaine after the time she said she went to bed. At the time of the crash, Dixon was driving Martinez to work. She was due at her job at 11 a.m. but was running late.
Walworth County prosecutors charged Dixon with two counts of homicide by vehicle with use of a controlled substance.
The jury convicted her after deliberating for 11 minutes. A month later, a judge sentenced her to 14 years in prison, five years of extended supervision and 10 years of probation.
The District II Court of Appeals denied Dixon’s claim that she should have been allowed to argue an affirmative defense—that the deaths would have happened even if she was exercising due care.
A crash reconstructionist said Dixon had enough room on the 12-foot-wide lane to pass without striking Brummel’s parked trailer, according to the decision. Dixon testified she had looked down before the crash when a cigarette ash fell.
Dixon, the decision states, doesn’t contest Brummel’s truck and trailer were visible from 500 feet away. And she would have been able to see him for more than five seconds if she had not been looking down while traveling at 60 mph, which was 10 mph over the speed limit, according to the reconstructionist.
“Based on these undisputed circumstances, if Dixon had been exercising due care in the operation of her vehicle, no reasonable jury could conclude the crash would have nonetheless occurred,” the appeals court wrote.
Dixon also argued in her appeal that mentioning to the jury her prior conviction for obstructing an officer should not have been allowed, but the appeals court decided it was “harmless.”