Defense Counsel Questions Credibility of Witnesses in Gantan DUI Case

September 11, 2013 | Even though their case has not opened, the defense attorney for Heile Gantan sought to discredit two witnesses i...

September 11, 2013 |

Even though their case has not opened, the defense attorney for Heile Gantan sought to discredit two witnesses interviewed by Elk Grove Police who said they saw the 23-year old Elk Grove woman consume alcohol prior to driving a car that was involved in a roll-over accident that killed a passenger, 20-year old Oscar Ivan Camero of Elk Grove. 

Gantan is alleged to have been driving on southbound Power Inn Road south of Calvine Road in Elk Grove at a high speed and under the influence of alcohol and marijuana in the early hours of Sunday, May 29, 2011. Gantan, and co-defendant, 23-year old Ladonna Torres of Elk Grove, are also accused of leaving the scene of an accident involving bodily injury.

Appearing as an expert witness on accident reconstruction for the prosecution was Officer Tina Durham of the Elk Grove Police. During her testimony, Durham said her investigation led to the theory that Gantan was driving the 1989 BMW southbound on Power Inn Road at a speed higher than the posted limit when she lost control of the car, swerved, crossed the median, flipped and stopped when it hit a tree and light pole on the far side of the northbound lanes of Power Inn Road.

In questioning by Deputy District Attorney Keri Reeve, Durham said her theory was developed after examining the accident scene and evidence such as the skid mark patterns and debris from the accident. In answering Reeve's examination, Durham said her calculations were based on accepted standards for accident reconstruction professionals and that she used conservative calculations that showed Gantan was driving between 53 and 58 miles-per-hour in a 35 mph zone.

"That was the lowest possible range," Durham said

Durham said that conservative calculations are generally used and that an independent test conducted by Elk Grove Police on the same stretch of Power Inn Road showed that the car driven by Gantan may have been moving at a higher rate of speed.  

"So you gave a greater benefit of doubt to the driver," Reeve queried.

"Yes," Durham replied.

In defense attorney Don Masuda's cross examination, Durham was questioned about two people who were with Gantan prior to the accident, David Nguyen and Louie Mallare. Durham interviewed the men on June 2 and testified both said they saw Gantan drank alcohol but were uncertain how much she consumed.

Masuda sought to question the credibility of both men saying they may have told Durham they believed Gantan had consumed alcohol based on the fact she was arrested for DUI. 

"When you asked [Nguyen] about drinking, did he say 'I don't even think she drank a lot, but I guess she was drinking,'" Masuda said. "Did he use that word guess?"

After examining the transcripts of the recorded interviews, Durham read the record as Masuda had. 

"Does that refresh your memory," Masuda said.

Continuing his questioning, Masuda further sought to discredit Nguyen by implying he was a regular marijuana user and asked Durham if she knew of his habitual use.

"When you sized up Mr. Nguyen, when you talked to him, you realized he smoked marijuana almost everyday," he stated.

"No," Durham replied.

"Mr. Mallore, you knew he smokes marijuana everyday," Masuda continued.

Durham again said no.
Also appearing for the prosecution was James Thompson, 911 Emergency Cell Phone Manager for the State of California. Thompson testified that there was only one call placed by three numbers he was asked to examine.

One number was Torres' cell number, the second one was unspecified and the third one was from the first person to arrive on the scene, Alex Garcia, who was the prosecution's first witness. Without specifying Garcia by name, Thompson said that there was only one 911 call made by a wireless number in that area and that was from Garcia's number.

During Garcia's testimony on Monday, Reeve played a recording of the call he made that was the first wireless call to 911. 

The trial continues tomorrow in Department 42 of the Sacramento Superior Court.

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