Jury convicts woman in deadly California DUI crash
A San Diego jury deadlocked Thursday on a second-degree murder count in the trial of a drunken driver who went the wrong way and crashed head-on into another car in 4S Ranch, killing the other driver.
The jury voted 11-1 in favour of guilt on the murder count filed against Alexandria Bayne, though the same panel on Wednesday convicted Bayne of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated and DUI causing injury.
Bayne was also acquitted by jurors of four child endangerment counts as prosecutors alleged that she drove drunk earlier in the day with her children riding in her minivan.
San Diego County Superior Court Judge Robert F. O'Neill declared a mistrial on the murder charge as he dismissed the jury Thursday afternoon.
Judge O’Neill has a Sept. 6 status conference to determine whether a retrial for Bayne will be pursued on the murder count.The 37-year-old defendant was charged with murder due to two previous DUI convictions from 2005 and 2008.
The victim, Sarita Shakya, a 38-year-old Scripps Mercy Hospital nurse, was heading home from work just before midnight on Dec. 17, 2016, on Camino Del Norte when her car was struck head-on by Bayne’s vehicle.
Deputy District Attorney Cally Bright told jurors in her opening statement that Bayne started drinking that morning, consuming alcoholic beverages throughout that day.
Bayne hired the services of a San Diego DUI Lawyer and alongside her attorney, conceded she had been drinking but was not drunk when she was behind the wheel. Though she also testified that she had eight drinks throughout that day, she told the jury that turning into opposing traffic lanes on Camino Del Norte was simply a mistake and nothing more.
Her attorney, Michelle Hunsaker, contended that Bayne made that mistake because she was distracted by her cell phone, as well as family issues.
Prosecutors said her blood alcohol content (BAC) was measured at between .32 and .33% after the crash—with the legal limit being .08%.
However, Hunsaker disputed that testing result, saying Bayne's alcohol consumption “just doesn't line up” with the .33% BAC alleged by the prosecution. She also added that Bayne had encountered several people throughout the day of the accident and did not appear intoxicated.
“We are not discounting the magnitude of the loss of Ms. Shakya and take full responsibility for that collision. But distraction does not equal murder,” Hunsaker said in a report.
The husband of the deceased, Peter Chen, testified that his wife typically returned home sometime after midnight each night following her shift at the hospital. When she failed to show up, he called her supervisor, who wasn’t aware why Shakya might be late.
Hours later, he received the bad news of his wife’s demise.
“I couldn't believe what had happened,” said Chen, calling it “the worst day of my life.”
The defendant was charged with murder due to two previous DUI convictions and will remain in custody without bail.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 37,133 people have died in traffic crashes in 2017 in the United States. This includes an estimated 10,874 people who were killed in drunk driving crashes involving a driver with an illegal BAC of .08% or higher. 68% (7,368) of people killed in these drunk driving crashes were in crashes in which at least one driver in the crash has a BAC of .15% or greater.