Gantan Trial Opens, Co-Defendant Counsel Tries to Distance Client From Primary Suspect - Part 1

September 9, 2013 | The trials of  DUI-manslaughter suspect 23-year old Heile Gantan and co-defendant 23-year old Ladonna Torres, both ...

September 9, 2013 |

The trials of  DUI-manslaughter suspect 23-year old Heile Gantan and co-defendant 23-year old Ladonna Torres, both of Elk Grove, opened today in Sacramento Superior Court in front of Judge Allen Sumner. While there was little questioning of the first two prosecution witnesses by Gantan's counsel, Torres' counsel's questioning suggests they will distance themselves from Gantan.

Gantan is being tried for vehicular manslaughter in the May 29, 2011 death of Oscar Ivan Camero of Elk Grove. Gantan is suspected of driving Torres' car under the influence and at a high rate of speed resulting in an accident that killed Camero.

Gantan and Torres are both accused of leaving the scene of an accident with bodily injury while Gantan faces additional charges of vehicular manslaughter, DUI and driving under the influence causing bodily injury.

In her opening statement to the eight women and four man jury, Deputy District Attorney Keri Reeves noted a responding police officer saw a female who was later identified as Gantan walking away from the accident and called it in. Reeves also noted that a post-accident evidentiary blood test showed Gantan's blood alcohol was above the legal limit of .08 and also contained markers of marijuana.  

"Her blood alcohol was point one-o (.10)," Reeves said. "And she also had delta-nine THC in her system."

Torres' attorney, Public Defender Alina Mendez stressed that Torres, who was a passenger in her car that was driven by Gantan, had a close friendship with Camero in her opening statement and was trying to get assistance for him after the accident. Gantan's counsel, noted criminal defense attorney Don Masuda, deferred his open statement until the defense presents its case.

The first witness called was Alexander Garcia of Sacramento, who was the first person at the scene. Garcia said he was returning to his Sacramento home after shopping at the nearby Winco store on Sheldon Road when he noticed flashing hazard lights on northbound Power Inn Road.

Garcia said he called the police after arriving at the scene after determining the suspects had not yet contacted them. In her presentation, Reeves played the call from Garcia to 911 that gave the location of the accident.

Garcia testified just prior to looking inside the overturned car, he had lent his phone to one of the suspects. After seeing Camero and then returning to the suspects, Garcia said Torres returned his cell phone. 

He also said he briefly left the accident scene at the instructions of the 911 operator to read the street sign of the nearby cross street. When he returned, Garcia said both suspects had left the accident scene.

"It seemed like they were running toward Sheldon, in that direction," Garcia said. "I just know they were moving in that direction."

About 90 minutes after the accident Garcia said he had a conversation with an unknown male on his cell phone who was asking about the accident but could not recall if he had received or placed the call. The questioning seemed to suggest one of the two suspects called the number when Garcia lent his phone at the accident scene.

In her cross examination, Mendez questioned Garcia about the conversation he had with the suspects upon his arrival at the scene and implied he might have misunderstood Torres' reply when asked if the police have been called. Mendez also stressed that Torres was pleading to get help for Camero who was in the back seat of the car and that Garcia and his girlfriend, who was also at the scene, may have been in as much shock as the suspects.    

Mendez also focused on Garcia's lack of precision in the time lapse of events at the accident scene. She noted that the accident occurred over two years ago and Garcia's memory might not be clear.

"Would it be fair to say that your memory of all the details of the exact sequence of each event isn't exactly clear at this point," she asked.

"Yes," Garcia said in response.

During his brief questioning of Garcia, Masuda focused on the use of his cell phone and sought to establish that Gantan had not used the device and that her only conversation with Garcia was to ask for help with Camero. Garcia agreed with Masuda's assertion.

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Miami Criminal Defense Lawyer

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