A Parker County jury convicted a 61-year-old Millsap man of felony driving while intoxicated and methamphetamine possession charges and sentenced him to 80 and 20 years in prison in a trial that concluded Friday afternoon in district court in Weatherford.
Toni Joe Whitehead was pulled over last July after a state trooper caught him driving 68 mph in a 35 mph zone in far west Parker County. After Whitehead failed a series of field sobriety tests, he was arrested, according to trial testimony. A breath test showed that his alcohol concentration was 0.13, which is in excess of the legal limit of 0.08.
“Mr. Whitehead was sentenced as a habitual offender,” said Assistant District Attorney Jeff Swain, who tried the case with Assistant District Attorney Kathleen Catania. “This was his seventh DWI conviction and will be his fourth trip to prison.”
Judgments introduced by the prosecution during the punishment phase of trial showed that, in 1988, a Parker County jury convicted Whitehead of burglary and sentenced him to seven years in prison. While on parole from that offense, he committed and was convicted of arson by a Palo Pinto County jury in 1991, for which he was sentenced to 20 years in prison. While on parole for that offense, he committed a 2009 felony DWI offense for which he received a prison sentence of 13 years in prison. He was on parole for the 2009 case when he was arrested in the current DWI case.
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During the punishment phase of trial, Whitehead’s sister testified about the abusive upbringing that she and her brother were put through, as well as numerous tragedies in their personal lives. She said that her brother has struggled with alcohol abuse since he was a child, using it as a coping mechanism. A psychologist called by the defense told jurors how the abuse could affect a person psychologically and said that there was still hope for Whitehead to be rehabilitated.
“Over the years, Mr. Whitehead has been through extensive inpatient treatment, classes, and Alcoholics Anonymous meetings,” Swain said. “Despite all of the help and the message we would hope was sent by the prior prison sentences, he keeps making the same choices. We argued that, at this point, the jury needed to focus on protecting the community, which their sentence will certainly do.”
When he was imposing the verdict returned by the jury, 43rd District Court Judge Craig Towson ordered that the 80 and 20 year sentences be served consecutively to the remainder of the 13-year prison sentence assessed in 2009 for which Whitehead is still on parole.
Jurors deliberated for about an hour and a half before convicting Whitehead. They took about two hours to come to a resolution on his punishment.
“I am grateful for the convictions and, based upon the defendant’s repeated criminal conduct, I am also pleased that the jury returned with very lengthy sentences and that Judge Towson stacked the sentences,” said Parker County District Attorney Don Schnebly.
After he serves the rest of the 13-year sentence, Whitehead will be eligible for parole after he has served 15 years in prison on the new cases, Swain said.