BELTON — The attorney for Jason Bernal — charged in two Temple boathouse deaths — waived his client’s Thursday-scheduled arraignment in Judge John Gauntt’s 27th District court.
A Dec. 14 pretrial date was set.
“Waiver of arraignment is extremely common,” Barrett Thomas said. “I do not need the court to read to him (Bernal) what I already know and have informed him of.”
The Killeen boater’s scheduled arraignment was on two counts of criminally negligent homicide.
Thomas said Thursday sometimes plea decisions are made based on the risk of possible outcomes rather than whether someone is actually guilty or innocent, but he wouldn’t speculate on what Bernal’s decision — whether to take a plea or to face a jury trial — will be.
He did say that Bernal is not guilty of what the state has accused him.
Bernal, 44, hasn’t been arraigned yet on two counts of intoxication manslaughter that he was indicted for in the tragic June 23 Lake Belton houseboat incident that killed Patrick Oliver, 31, and his daughter, Kaitlyn Oliver, 4.
According to Section 19.05 of the Texas Penal Code, criminally negligent homicide is an act in which a person causes the death of another by criminal negligence. Texas residents are expected to behave in a way that doesn’t endanger safety or lives, and to not cause death by omitting certain actions.
In October, a Texas Department of Public Safety hearing decided that Bernal wasn’t intoxicated when he allegedly backed up his houseboat and ran over Kaitlyn, who became trapped in the boat’s propellers. She died at the scene. Her father was injured when he tried to rescue his daughter. He died on July 6.
The accident happened on Sandy Point, which is not a designated beach area at Temple Lake Park. Boaters and swimmers at Lake Belton do so at their own risk, and boaters aren’t prohibited from pulling up anywhere on the lake except at the designated swim beaches. Boaters can nose their boats up along the shoreline but not at beach areas. The designated beach area is strongly recommended for use by swimmers, according to U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Lake Manager Ronnie Bruggman.
Alcohol also is allowed on the water, as long as a person isn’t intoxicated.