2.26.2010

TS - Evidence for second degree murder charge?

Evidence for second degree murder charge?

Humboldt County Superior Court Judge Dale Reinholtsen on Thursday heard arguments on whether a man charged in the death of a 9-year-old McKinleyville girl in a horrifying car wreck should stand trial for second-degree murder.

District Attorney Paul Gallegos said he'd submitted enough evidence to show that 31-year-old Jason Whitmill acted with the “implied malice” that backs up a second-degree murder charge. Whitmill's defense attorney Glenn Brown argued that the burden to show malice is high, and depends not on whether Whitmill should have known his actions were likely to end in someone's death -- but whether he actually did know that.

Whitmill is standing trial with 19-year-old Anthony Flores. The two were allegedly involved in an impromptu street race on State Route 299 outside Arcata on Oct. 6. Prosecutors allege that when Whitmill tried to pass Flores' vehicle, his car crashed into a Chevrolet Tahoe, which spun off the road and slammed into a power pole. The crash killed 9-year-old Nicole Quigley and seriously injured her mother Debra. Nicole Quigley's twin, Ashley, survived.

Whitmill has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder, vehicular manslaughter, driving under the influence causing injury and engaging in a speed challenge. Flores has pleaded not guilty to vehicular manslaughter, engaging in a speed challenge and participating in a hit-and-run injury.

Brown argued Thursday that Whitmill has no prior DUIs, and has not been subjected to education on the dangers of drunk driving like those convicted of DUI are required to undergo. He claimed a high court's ruling holds that a defendant must implicitly know his driving is likely to cause death. Brown also said that it “flies in the face of reason” that Whitmill would endanger his own life.

Gallegos countered that thousands of DUI accidents occur on the nation's roads every year.

”People do act contrary to their own interests all the time,” Gallegos said.

The other issue at hand is whether the blood-alcohol evidence collected from Whitmill after the crash should be allowed in court. Brown claimed that the California Highway Patrol officer who took Whitmill's blood did so before his arrest and without probable cause that he was driving.

Whitmill's acquaintance Cheri Marcelli initially told police that she was driving, and Brown argued that CHP Sgt. Hal Rosendahl only forced Whitmill to submit to a blood alcohol test to “hedge his bets.” The law doesn't allow a forced blood test without probable cause, Brown said.

That blood alcohol test came back at 0.14 percent, well over the state's legal limit of 0.08.

Gallegos countered that Rosendahl did not believe Marcelli's statement about being the driver, especially because her injuries appeared inconsistent with ones that are likely to be sustained by a driver.

Reinholtsen took the matter under submission and expects to issue a ruling, perhaps by next week. A trial-setting hearing is scheduled for June 26 before Judge J. Bruce Watson.

Humboldt Area Foundation Opens Nicole Quigley Memorial Fund

The Humboldt Area Foundation has announced the opening of a fund in memory of Nicole Quigley.

The fund will provide jazz or tap dance classes each year to a student at No Limits Dance Studio, in recognition of the 9-year-old's love for dancing. According to a press release from the foundation, the fund may support other youth activities in the future, as well.

Additional contributions to the fund are welcome. Tax-deductible gifts may be sent to the Nicole Quigley Memorial Fund for Dance & Youth Activities at the Humboldt Area Foundation, 373 Indianola Rd., Bayside, CA 95524.

John Driscoll can be reached at 441-0504 or jdriscoll@times-standard.com.
John Driscoll/The Times-Standard
Posted: 06/19/2009 01:24:15 AM PDT
From Comments:

Domino 21
Isn't Whitmill a junky? If so he probably didn't think he was drunk. I don't know if that makes his behaviour worse in the eyes of the law, but if he was acting in a manner "normal" for him, that makes him even more dangerous. To me at least. I think that the trying to claim he was not the driver more telling than the BAC. It showed that he knew he had just committed a vile crime.

Unfortunately it seems like this will end up as a vehicular manslaughter. Hopefully though they can 3 strike him and give him an LWOP sentence.

ex-eurekan
Whitmill is a long time meth user and thief. He was on parole at the time of this incident. He has a long history of drug and theft releated crimes. He is what is commonly referred to as a non-violent offender by those that want to release 10's of thousands from prison and not supervise 10's of thousands of parolees. This is the Governor's current plan. The fact is, Whitmill is a habitual criminal offender and SHOULD not have been on the streets. My prayers to the family that had to suffer because of this.

hoss
I got a rope that would end this tragedy, who has a tree?

someone stole my name
Gee, he just didn't know that driving drunk and speeding at 100 mph was likely to cause a death.

Sigh
Anyone racing on a public roadway willfully places the lives of innocent people in danger.

If you are outraged about this change, it's your own damn fault. You elected an activist DA who is soft, soft, soft on crime.

Who is more important, criminals or victims? Criminals in this county.

***
Related:
09
Whitmill and Flores trial date delayed another month 08/04/2009
Whitmill, Flores take District Attorney's deal 12/05/2009
Jury selection begins in trial of Whitmill, Flores 11/23/2009
Whitmill, Flores trial to proceed 11/10/2009
Motion denied to suppress blood sample in Whitmill case 11/06/2009
Whitmill faces murder charge for alleged role in crash 10/15/2008
Quigley family, friends remember 9-year-old Nicole 10/06/09
Nearly one year ago 10/01/2009
Case surrounding fatal crash on Highway 299 delayed 09/15/2009
Too many delays 9/10/09
Legal maneuvers slow case of men charged in 9-year-old's death 09/01/2009
Whitmill and Flores trial date delayed another month 08/04/2009
Evidence, charges unchanged against Whitmill 07/17/2009
Evidence for second degree murder charge? 06/19/2009
Thinking of the Quigleys 05/29/2009
Remember Nicole 05/08/2009
Looking forward: Quigley family watches and waits as case continues 05/17/2009
Defendants in 299 wreck plead not guilty 03/28/2009
Judge holds Whitmill, Flores to answer for 299 wreck 03/14/2009
Wife refuses to testify against husband at preliminary hearing 03/13/2009
Investigator testifies suspect in fatal crash changed story 03/12/2009
Officer testifies about 299 crash at prelim 03/11/2009
Preliminary hearing over Highway 299 wreck continues 03/10/2009
Superior Court delays hearing in 299 crash case 02/11/2009
Broken system 01/23/2009

08
Hug your children 12/03/2008
Vehicular manslaughter suspect has extensive criminal history 11/13/2008
Whitmill-Flores hearing continued 11/06/2008
Street race case waiting on CHP reports 10/23/2008
Authorities seek Mustang passenger for questioning 10/17/2008
Court document: Flores tried to 'subvert' investigation 10/16/08
Whitmill faces murder charge for alleged role in crash 10/15/2008
Authorities arrest driver of Mustang 10/10/2008
New driver named in fatal collision 10/09/2008
Search continues for other driver in fatal crash 10/08/2008
◼ ER Parolee named as driver in fatal collision
◼ TS New driver identified in fatal crash
◼ TS New driver named in fatal collision
TS Update: ☛ TS Police still looking for driver
◼ TS Driver sought: Suspected drag race on 299 results in fatal crash

Note: there were other articles in the Eureka reporter, but none are available online anymore.