SAN MARCOS, Texas (KXAN) — After six hours of deliberations, a Hays County jury found Nathanael Eddleman not guilty of failure to stop and render aid. There appeared to be a visible sigh of relief from Eddleman when Judge Jack Robison read the verdict. The family of Phillip Duran, obviously disappointed and upset, quickly left the courtroom. As the case was adjourned, Eddleman’s family and supporters embraced each other and even formed a prayer circle before walking out of the courtroom together without offering any comment.
Eddleman’s defense attorney Todd Nickle argued throughout the case the defendant thought he struck a street pole and had no idea 37-year-old Phillip Duran was left behind to die. Hays County prosecutors said a reasonable person would have stopped to see what caused the impact.
Eddleman turned 17 on April 27, 2013. That same night, he was driving to a friend’s house to celebrate his birthday. In a tape-recorded interview with police, Eddleman claimed he turned right on FM 1626 from Kohler’s Crossing and was trying to get his cellphone to charge when he thought he hit a street pole. He actually hit Duran, who was wearing a reflective vest and jogging in the roadside shoulder.
According to the formal charge against Eddleman, the jury had to determine if a reasonable person involved in the collision would have known a collision occurred where someone had been injured and was in need of immediate assistance.
In closing arguments on Thursday morning, prosecutors told the jury a reasonable person would have realized the damage done to the front of their vehicle and realized there was no street pole in the area.
Nickle said his client’s reaction and demeanor heard in the taped interview show he legitimately did not realize the full magnitude of the collision until police informed him. He also pointed out the crash happened at night and Duran’s body, hidden in tall roadside grass, was not found until late the following afternoon.
If convicted, Eddleman would have faced a sentence ranging from 2-10 years. Just minutes into deliberations,the jury requested to view a picture showing some kind of DNA smear on the hood of Eddleman’s SUV. In closing arguments, both sides argued whether or not the location of the smear would have made it reasonable for a driver to believe a human had been struck.