A Fresno County jury will be asked to decide if a drunken driver should face a murder charge when someone gets killed.
That is the charge prosecutors are pursuing in a trial that began Monday.
In opening statements, prosecutor Sally Moreno told a Fresno County Superior Court jury that Isidro Munguia Maravilla, 30, drove off Floral Avenue near Selma, hit a telephone pole and rolled his car into a vineyard. The crash killed his passenger, Christyan Rodriguez, 25, of Fresno.
After the crash, Maravilla had a .21 blood alcohol, or nearly three times the legal limit of .08 to drive, court records say.
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Maravilla, a resident of Fowler, is being tried for second-degree murder under the legal theory of “implied malice.” To get a murder conviction, the prosecution has to prove he drove under the influence, knew driving while drunk was dangerous, and showed a conscious disregard for human life.
If convicted of murder, Maravilla faces a minimum of 15 years to life in prison.
The fatal crash happened around 7:10 p.m. Nov. 20, 2012, on Floral Avenue near DeWolf Avenue, west of Highway 99.
The crash happened at 7:10 p.m. Nov. 20, 2012, on Floral Avenue, west of DeWolf Avenue, west of Highway 99.
Moreno said Maravilla knew it was dangerous to drive while drunk because he had two prior convictions for drunken driving – in October 2008 and in December 2011. Maravilla was on probation when he killed Rodriguez, Moreno said.
A judge also told Maravilla in December 2011 that if he killed someone while driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, he could be charged with murder. Maravilla told the judge he understood the admonition, Moreno told the jury.
In addition, Maravilla completed a court-mandated program that educated him on the dangers of drinking and driving, the prosecutor said.
In the fatal crash, Maravilla’s 2000 Honda Civic was found upside down in the vineyard, Moreno said, showing jurors a photograph of the fatal wreck. She pointed out that Maravilla was in the driver’s seat, strapped in with his seat belt. Rodriguez was belted in the front passenger seat. He was dead at the scene.
Fresno defense attorney Roger Nuttall reserved his opening statement until after the prosecution is done putting on its evidence against Maravilla.
Court records say Maravilla was arrested at the hospital after the crash. He was questioned about the crash, but didn’t remember what happened. He also declined say whether he was drinking, the court documents say.