The defense attorney for a Burlingame man who killed his friend in a drunken driving crash in 2009 told jurors that a blood alcohol test taken from the injured defendant just hours after the accident was mishandled and flawed. Geoff Carr made the allegation in his opening statement at the retrial of Bruce Alan Walker, Jr., 38, who is charged with second-degree murder in connection with the crash that killed his best friend and passenger on El Camino Real on April 11, 2009. Walker was driving from dinner at Broadway Prime with 36-year-old Daniel White, when Walker lost control of his 2006 silver Infiniti at about 9:50 p.m.
The vehicle struck a curb on the right side of the road, spun several times across four lanes of traffic, hit a eucalyptus tree on the passenger side and flipped onto its roof. White was killed almost instantly. Deputy District Attorney Joe Cannon opened the trial by showing jurors a photograph of the mangled overturned car, with White’s lifeless body still strapped inside. Walker, who was partially ejected from the car but survived the crash, was taken to San Francisco General Hospital suffering broken ribs and bleeding lungs, Canon said. Burlingame police officers and paramedics reportedly smelled alcohol on Walker’s breath, leading to a blood sample being taken from the defendant as he lay sedated in the hospital at 10:20 p.m., Canon said.
The police officer who took the sample apparently carried it in her uniform for nearly 10 hours before handing it over for forensic analysis at the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office. The delay did not affect the outcome of the test, Canon said, which showed that Walker’s blood contained traces of cocaine and a blood alcohol content of .20 percent, two-and-a-half times the legal limit. Carr disagreed, and said that the gross mishandling of the blood sample was in violation of procedures established by the state, and resulted in a “blood sample whose integrity cannot be vouched for.”
Carr further argued that Walker and White had been at dinner with as many as four other people, and that even though Walker admitted to drinking two beers, the limited amount of alcohol consumed at the table would not have been enough to result a blood alcohol content of .20 percent in Walker’s blood. In April, a jury convicted Walker of gross vehicular manslaughter in connection with the fatal crash. However, the jury was unable to reach a verdict on a charge of second-degree murder, which requires that the prosecution prove the defendant acted with malice or intentional disregard for human life.
District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said that Walker clearly knew that driving under the influence of alcohol could result in loss of life, based on information the defendant received in first-offender DUI classes he was required to complete after being arrested for drunken driving in San Mateo County in 1997 and 2001. Walker’s record of repeated misconduct prior to the 2009 crash that killed his best friend prompted the district attorney’s office to seek a retrial on the charge of second-degree murder, Wagstaffe said. If convicted, Walker could face 15 years to life in prison, Wagstaffe said. If the jury is unable to reach a guilty verdict, the conviction for vehicular manslaughter will stand, which carries a sentence of up to 10 years.
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