The lawyer for the Clovis woman charged with killing a motorist on Highway 41 in a drunken-driving crash said Wednesday that District Attorney Dave Linn has the good intention of wanting to keep Madera County safe, but he can’t charge defendant Candice Ooley with murder because there is no case law to support it.
Madera attorney Daniel K. Martin also said Wednesday that it was not Ooley’s fault that she missed a May 18 court date for a prior drunken-driving arrest at Millerton Lake. The summons was sent to the wrong address in Clovis.
In addition, Martin said Linn is missing a key issue in wanting to punish Ooley, 23, who is at least six months pregnant. Her unborn baby likely has fetal alcohol syndrome, and she needs to be in an inpatient care facility – not jail – to get proper medical care, Martin said.
Bull, Linn responded.
“He doesn’t know what he’s talking about,” Linn said. “And she should have thought of that (unborn baby) when she started drinking and driving.”
“She’s not going anywhere,” Linn said.
Ooley is scheduled to appear Thursday in Madera County Superior Court for a hearing to reduce her $250,000 bail. Linn said he will block any attempt to get her released from jail.
Martin, who was appointed by the court to represent Ooley, said Wednesday that he could not discuss the case in detail because Ooley told a judge at her arraignment on Tuesday that she might hire a lawyer. But in general, Martin said, “Alcohol addiction is an illness. It needs to be treated like any other medical condition.”
And regardless of what happens in court Thursday, Martin said the common goal should be to protect the unborn child.
Investigators believe Ooley may have passed out behind the wheel when the crash happened May 20 – two days after her missed court date – on Highway 41 north of Road 200.
Ooley had a 0.32 blood-alcohol level – four times the legal limit of 0.08 – at the time of the 9:50 p.m. collision, Linn has said.
According to Linn, Ooley was home in Clovis and had a fight with her boyfriend when she decided to drink and drive. She was arrested by the California Highway Patrol after crashing her 2014 Chevrolet Cruze into the rear of a 2006 Hummer H3. The CHP said the speed Ooley was driving isn’t known.
The impact caused the Hummer’s driver, Mauricio Lourenco, 40, of Lemoore, to lose control, go off the road and down an embankment. He was released from Community Regional Medical Center in Fresno on Tuesday.
The crash killed Federico Duarte Nunez Silva, 47, of Lemoore, and injured Juana Pineda, 40, and Louisa Pamplona, 48, both of Lemoore. The women were treated and released from Community Regional Medical Center.
Ooley graduated from Buchanan High School in 2011. In 2010, she was awarded a $1,500 scholarship by Clovis Unified School District for overcoming adversity on the way to educational success.
Martin said Ooley’s case is unusual because she has no prior criminal record.
Court records say Ooley was at Millerton Lake when park police pulled her over around 9:30 p.m. June 30. She told police she had been drinking beer and asked if one of her two friends could drive her home. Instead, she was arrested, booked into the Madera County Jail and released. Her blood alcohol then was nearly 0.28, Linn said.
Linn said Wednesday that his office processed drunken-driving charges within a few months of Ooley’s arrest at Millerton Lake. But court records say the complaint was not filed in Madera County Superior Court until April this year. Martin said the summons was sent to Ooley’s old address on Keats Avenue in Clovis. Her current address is on Alamos Avenue in Clovis, he said.
Typically, a repeat offender of drunken driving can be charged with second-degree murder. This is most commonly done if a judge had warned the convicted drunken driver at the conclusion of a DUI proceeding, Linn said.
Martin said Ooley can’t be charged with murder because she has never received that warning, known as a Watson warning, nor does she have a prior drunken-driving conviction.
But Linn said Wednesday that he is still looking into a possible murder charge against Ooley. He said all he has to prove is that Ooley knew when she got drunk on May 20 and decided to drive that her actions could lead to a death. Linn said students learn about DUI enhancements and penalties in driver’s education classes, so he is looking into Ooley’s class curriculum. He also noted that Ooley worked at Applebee’s, and many bars train their staff on the dangers of giving too much alcohol to customers.
For now, Ooley is charged with vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated causing great bodily injury. If convicted, she faces at least 15 years to life in prison. Her preliminary hearing is scheduled for June 3.