Emotional first day of testimony in trial of Brad Meeks

Defendant Brad Meeks (facing forward) and his attorneys (lower right) look up at a slide photo of Curtis Wilson as the court listens to Ashley Wilson’s testimony Tuesday. (W.C. Mann for The Cullman Tribune)

CULLMAN, Ala. – After a marathon session to seat a jury Monday, the trial of Bremen resident Bradford Neal Meeks, 29, in the May 2017 death of Cullman High School student Curtis “Curt” James Wilson, 15, got underway Tuesday morning at the Cullman County Courthouse.

Meeks is charged in the May 7, 2017 car crash that killed Wilson. Meeks was indicted in October 2017 on charges of reckless murder, DUI, DUI with blood alcohol concentration .08 or greater, unsafe lane change, driving on the wrong side of the road, possession of open container of alcoholic beverages in a motor vehicle and third-degree assault. 

In his opening statement, Cullman County Assistant District Attorney John Bryant re-read and explained the charges against Meeks.

Defense attorney Johnny Berry opened by promising, “No one’s going to say anything bad about Curtis Wilson or Ashley Wilson.”

He said some important prosecution witnesses were friends of the Wilson family, and said that defense testimony will indicate that Meeks’ driving prior to the wreck was better than some claim.

He also insisted that the case does not meet the definition of reckless murder, saying, “This is not a murder case” and, “I’ll stake my 32 years that (Judge Gregory Nicholas) is going to give you some different charges.”

Prosecutors entered Meeks’ medical records from UAB Hospital, followed by testimony from the nurse who drew blood from Meeks in the UAB emergency room, as well as the medical technologist who tested the sample in a UAB lab. Both talked about the processes and safeguards involved in their duties. After detailed explanations, the technologist stated that her test showed a blood alcohol concentration of .263 for Meeks. On cross examination, Berry argued that machinery can fail and technicians can mishandle samples, from drawing to processing. He concluded his cross examination after getting the technologist to agree that both humans and machines can make mistakes.

Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA) State Trooper and Traffic Homicide Investigator Seth Hannah talked about his attempt to get a blood sample from Meeks that was refused, and a subsequent effort with court search warrants that failed due to an equipment issue. He also shared his observations of Meeks in the UAB emergency room the evening of the crash, noting conditions consistent with intoxication. On cross examination, Berry pointed out issues in the trooper’s report that, according to the attorney, showed Hannah’s investigation was not as thorough as it could have been. Berry also pointed out that Meeks could have been given pain medications in the ER that could have made him appear intoxicated to the trooper.

In the late afternoon, a tearful Mark Wilson, Curt Wilson’s father, testified about his experience the day of his son’s death. Then Ashley Wilson took the stand briefly to recount her experience of the wreck.

When asked what she remembered, a tearful Wilson replied, “I remember everything,” and gave an account of the impact and immediate aftermath, including efforts to reach and get the attention of her unresponsive son, and demands to responding bystanders to help him before her.

Berry did not cross examine either parent.

Lisa Crane Hebert, who was following Ashley Wilson’s truck at the time of the crash, next described what she witnessed.

Hebert, who tried to aid both drivers while emergency responders were still on the way, said of Meeks, “He seemed drunk.”

When Berry pointed out her lack of medical expertise and questioned her ability to judge intoxication, she replied, “If you’ve ever been to college at a frat party, you could tell he was drunk.”

Last to take the stand for the day was a cashier who was working at Van’s Sporting Goods (located on County Road 222 where the crash occurred) on the day of the crash. She testified that Meeks came in the store a little while before the wreck, exhibiting signs of intoxication. On cross examination, attorney Brandon Little asked her why she did not call the police if Meeks left the store in that condition.

The trial continues Wednesday.

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W.C. Mann