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A Burlingame man convicted of second-degree murder for the death of his best friend in a 2009 drunken driving crash was sentenced Thursday to 15 years to life in prison, according to the San Mateo County District Attorney’s Office. Bruce Walker Jr., now 39, and his passenger, Daniel White, 36, were driving from dinner at Broadway Prime in Burlingame on April 11, 2009, when Walker lost control of his 2006 silver Infiniti M45 at about 9:50 p.m.
The vehicle struck a curb on the road’s right side, spun several times across four lanes of traffic, hit a eucalyptus tree on the passenger side and flipped onto its roof, killing White almost instantly.Walker was partially ejected from the car and was taken to San Francisco General Hospital, where he was treated for broken ribs and bleeding lungs. Burlingame police officers and paramedics reportedly smelled alcohol on Walker’s breath, and a blood sample was taken from Walker as he lay sedated in the hospital, according to prosecutors.
That sample, the integrity of which was brought into question but was upheld, indicated Walker’s blood contained traces of cocaine and a blood alcohol content of .20 percent, more than twice the legal limit.At the end of the 20-day trial on the murder charge in October, jurors returned a verdict that Walker had acted with malice or intentional disregard for human life when he drove that night.
According to the district attorney’s office, Walker understood that driving under the influence of alcohol could result in loss of life, based on information he received in first-offender DUI classes he completed after being arrested for DUI in San Mateo County in 1997 and 2001.Walker’s record of misconduct prior to the 2009 crash led prosecutors to seek a retrial on the second-degree murder charge.
In April, jurors had returned a guilty verdict on a felony charge of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence and intoxication, but the jury was deadlocked on a murder charge. Judge Robert Foiles on Thursday denied Walker probation and sentenced him to state prison. Walker has about three years’ credit for time served toward his mandatory sentence of 15 years to life.
The sentence Foiles handed down Thursday also requires Walker to pay a $10,000 restitution fine as well as restitution to White’s family and to the Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board in amounts yet to be determined. Following a defense request, Walker will not be transported to state prison before May 1.
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