A teary-eyed Gabrielle Nestande pleaded not guilty Friday morning to manslaughter and intoxication manslaughter in the deadly hit-and-run of Courtney Griffin last year.
The 25-year old was indicted Wednesday on the two new charges, both second-degree felonies, just days before her trial for her original failure to stop and render aid charge was set to begin.
Her new trial for the manslaughter charges is now set for Feb. 11, with jury selection beginning Feb. 6.
Police say Nestande, a California native and former Legislative aide to Rep. Wayne Christian in the Texas House, struck 30-year-old Griffin with her car in the early morning hours of May 27, 2011. Griffin, a fifth-generation Austinite, was walking to her home on Exposition Boulevard at the time.
Prosecutors say Nestande then fled the scene to a friend’s house nearby. She was taken into custody the following morning when she went to work on the House floor at the State Capitol.
A homeowner discovered Griffin’s body in her driveway shortly after 5 a.m.
Travis County prosecutor Allison Wetzel said the down-to-the-wire indictments came after new evidence was revealed that indicated Nestande was in fact intoxicated at the time of the accident.
“We felt like the evidence that we do have is sufficient to prove intoxication,” Wetzel said. “This is something we did not have. We followed up on it and we felt that it was significant. Sometimes, when we are getting ready for trial, we get a fresh look at things and talk to people we haven’t talk to before and come across one person that leads us to other people.”
Nestande’s attorney Perry Minton says the new charges aren’t changing the way he plans to represent his client.
“We will look at the evidence that’s coming in and we will make those decisions at the time,” he said.
However, for the Griffin family, the more severe charges have been a long time in coming. Griffin’s mother Laurie said the new evidence was something that is “mysterious and magical.”
“It doesn’t matter that we found it Day one or Day 101. It happened and we will believe the witnesses will hold up,” she said. “It’s firm and she will be convicted.”
Courtney’s father Bart Griffin, donning a “Justice for Courtney Griffin” button in court, said the family is anxious to begin the trial.
“Let’s get this thing moving,” he said. “The family needs to get this behind us.”
Nestande’s new charges means she faces up to 20 years in prison on each count. Click here to read her new indictment.
Watch a raw interview with Laurie Leach Griffin, Courtney's mother, after the hearing in the video below.