A Kerman man with at least four prior drunken driving convictions was found guilty of murder Wednesday in the killing of a Fresno mother of eight in a drunken-driving, head-on collision on Friant Road northeast of Fresno three years ago.
Luis Anthony Moreno, 52, lowered his head when the verdict was announced in Fresno Superior Court Judge Gary Hoff’s courtroom.
Testimony revealed that Moreno’s blood-alcohol level was 0.36, more than four times the legal limit to drive, two hours after the collision that killed Blia Vang, 54, who worked at Foster Farms at night and cared for her family during the day.
Moreno also was convicted of felony drunken driving causing serious injuries to Vang’s husband, Yee Her.
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The jury of seven women and five men deliberated about five hours before reaching its decision.
He had to be stopped.
Prosecutor Sally Moreno
Moreno faces as much as 21 years to life in prison when he is sentenced Oct. 13, said prosecutor Sally Moreno, who is not related to the defendant. After the verdict was announced Wednesday, the prosecutor said the defendant needs to go to prison for a long time. “He had to be stopped,” she said.
Until he is sentenced, Luis Moreno will remain in Fresno County Jail, where has been since the deadly collision in May 2013. Jail records say he is being held without bail and has an immigration hold.
Moreno was tried for second-degree murder under the legal theory of “implied malice.” To get a murder conviction, the prosecution had to prove he drove under the influence, knew driving while drunk was dangerous, and showed a conscious disregard for human life.
During the trial, Sally Moreno said the defendant had at least four prior drunken-driving convictions since 1985. In his last conviction in 2010, Luis Moreno acknowledged in a plea form that he understood that drinking and driving is dangerous to human life. He then was warned in court that if he killed someone while driving under the influence of alcohol, he could be charged with murder, the prosecutor told the jury.
Defense attorney Ernest Scott Kinney argued that his client was too drunk to have a conscious disregard for human life. When he got behind the steering wheel of his truck, Moreno wasn’t thinking about killing anyone, Kinney told the jury.
District Attorney Lisa Smittcamp has made a commitment to prosecute drunk drivers “to the full extent of the law.”
The crash happened about 8:20 p.m. May 5, 2013, on Friant Road near Lost Lake.
Sally Moreno said the defendant had been drinking in Kerman when he got into a fight with his girlfriend. That evening, he decided to drive to Table Mountain Casino.
Luis Moreno was northbound on Friant when his pickup veered into the oncoming lane and slammed into a southbound Toyota Corolla driven by Her, then 55, the prosecutor said. Vang, a passenger in the Corolla, died at the scene. Her was taken by helicopter to Community Regional Medical Center.
Sally Moreno said she is thankful that District Attorney Lisa Smittcamp has made a commitment to prosecute drunken drivers “to the full extent of the law.”
“People need to realize that drinking and driving is dangerous,” Sally Moreno said.