LAWRENCEVILLE - No one debated Tuesday that Colin Brown was behind the wheel of a late-model BMW in January 2007 when it slipped off Herrington Road, compacted like a soda can around a tree and killed his pal, 24-year-old Michael Dale.
In question is what - be it alcohol, drugs, the rainy conditions or some other factor - made Brown lose control.
Testimony opened Tuesday in Brown's vehicular homicide case in Gwinnett Superior Court. The Lawrenceville man faces an additional count of driving with a suspended license.
Brown, 33, reportedly wrecked after driving off a curved area of Herrington Road near Miss Irene Lane in Lawrenceville in the wee hours of January 19, 2007. Dale, the sole passenger, was entrapped in the front passenger seat. He died at the scene.
The state's first witness was Kenneth Bruce, the property owner who rose from bed after he "heard what sounded like an airplane taking off, then a loud bang," he said.
Bruce testified that Brown reeked of alcohol and urged him to lie to police about who was driving the car.
Gwinnett police Officer Brad Roehl, the first responder on scene, testified that Brown told police he was driving Dale home after the two had been drinking at Luby's, a nearby bar and grill.
"He told me he had a few beers," Roehl testified. "He kept saying that he was sorry."
Police have said Brown was wearing his seat belt at the time of the crash but Dale was not. Brown suffered a serious injury to his lower leg.
A forensics toxicologist from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation said Brown's blood and urine samples tested positive for marijuana, but that it was impossible to determine how recently he'd used the drug.
Stacey Levy, part of Brown's defense team, asserted in opening statements the crash was not caused by intoxication of any kind. Brown is expected to testify later this week, she said.
"This is something he's going to have to live with the rest of his life," Levy said.