Appeal Declined In DUI Murder Case

The California Supreme Court has declined to hear the appeal of a man found guilty of second-degree murder and gross vehicular manslaughter that happened nearly four years ago in Pomona.

As reported on the MyNewsLA.com website, Michael Daniel Gardner was found guilty in 2017 for his role in the death of a 32-year-old nurse, Marissa Leigh Vasquez. On May 17, 2015, as Vasquez was on her way to work, her vehicle was struck by a Mercedes Benz being driven by Gardner. The accident happened near the intersection of West Arrow Highway and Mariposa Street. The Mercedes Gardner had been driving was reported stolen by his neighbor.

According to an earlier report by the CBS affiliate in Los Angeles filed at the time, authorities determined that Gardner had been under the influence at the time of the fatal crash.

In April of 2017, a jury convicted Gardner and rendered a sentence of 18-years to life in prison for the charges of second-degree murder, gross vehicular manslaughter, driving while under a license suspension and driving while under the influence of alcohol.

Attorneys for the defense argued that because the jury did not have sufficient evidence that the defendant had killed Vazquez but could be blamed on the light pole which also fell during the crash. Because no coroner’s report was submitted, the sentence should, therefore, be overturned. The force of impact on the victim’s Honda caused the car to become airborne and crash into a power pole, and roll for an estimated 10 yards before coming to rest on the vehicle’s roof.

The appellate court panel rendered its findings in a 24-page opinion. The panel asserted that since the jury had heard evidence obtained from police that Gardner had been going an estimated 127 mph prior to the crash in a zone with a posted 45 mph speed limit it was reasonable to conclude that Gardner’s actions were directly to blame for Vasquez’ death; even without a coroner’s report.

During the proceedings, the defense also filed a motion to suppress evidence presented in which the blood alcohol taken from Gardner was 0.27 percent – more than three times the legal limit of 0.08 percent. The motion was denied, and Gardner’s conviction was upheld.

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