Will Jury Buy Masuda’s Conspiracy Theory in Gantan Trial?

September 18, 2013 | What’s an attorney to do? You are retained to defend a person suspected of drunk driving and crashing a ca...

September 18, 2013 |

What’s an attorney to do?

You are retained to defend a person suspected of drunk driving and crashing a car that killed one of the occupants and your client is observed walking away from the scene with another person by Elk Grove Police officers?

Furthermore, during the actual trial you acknowledge, a.) your client was driving the car in question, b.) your client was speeding, c.) your client’s blood alcohol level was above the legal limit, d.) your client’s blood test showed marijuana in the system, and most critically, e.) an occupant in the car being driven by your client was killed as a result of the accident.

These were the hurdles defense attorney Don Masuda faced in the just concluded trial of 23-year old Heile Gantan of Elk Grove. Gantan is being tried for driving under the influence of alcohol and causing bodily injury, in this case the death of 20-year old Oscar Ivan Camero of Elk Grove, on Sunday, May 29, 2011.

For Masuda the options boiled down to this – try to convince a jury that his client was a good girl that on one night in her life fell in with the wrong crowd who then conspired to spike her drinks and then lie that they saw her consume alcohol at a gathering at her parents’ Elk Grove house.

In the final jury instruction arguments that concluded this afternoon, Masuda attempted just that.

While Sacramento County Deputy District Attorney Keri Reeve presented her case over the last two weeks with mounds of forensic data that showed Gantan and fellow co-defendant Ladonna Torres, who was another of the car's occupants and is being tried concurrently with Gantan, where both impaired and left the accident scene, Masuda was left with nothing more than a purely subjective and hypothetical defense.

As the trial unfolded over the last two weeks, it was obvious Masuda was working in that direction. It all came together this afternoon in Department 42 of the Sacramento Superior Court for the well-regarded criminal defense attorney.

Without hesitation, Masuda called Torres and a host of witnesses, for both the people and Torres, liars. Furthermore, cobbling disparate pieces of testimony, Masuda said Torres along with witnesses Ariel Alexis Gilmore, David Nguyen and Kim Nguyen not only conspired to lie under oath as to whether or not Gantan drank, but one of them actually spiked the lemonade Gantan was drinking without her knowledge in the hours leading up to the accident.

During her testimony Gantan, who was conservatively dressed while in the courtroom, not only denied having drunk alcohol preceding the crash that killed Camero in spite of her blood alcohol, but also claimed to have never consumed alcohol. Gantan and her older sister Theresa Gantan-Sullivan, one of only three witnesses called in her defense, testified they were raised in a strict household where alcohol and drinking was non-existent.

During her last words to the jury this afternoon, Reeve mocked Masuda’s strategy noting that he is likely to come up with a new conspiracy theory on the assassination of President Kennedy. 

Notwithstanding her sarcasm, Reeve highlighted a potentially major flaw of Masuda’s theory - can a group of young adults in their early 20’s have the intellect, while under the influence of alcohol, marijuana and in some cases ecstasy, to conspire to wantonly inebriate another person and then conspire to collectively lie and cover-up?

It may be a hard sell for Masuda to convince the eight women and four man jury of this theory, but it is about the only card he could play. But he only needs to convince one person to get a hung jury, or better yet, enough reasonable doubt to get a not guilty verdict.

For Masuda and Gantan, that question will be answered shortly.

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Anonymous said...

The results of these three young people drinking and driving is so horrific that may, in fact, never accept their culpability. And though everyone is loath to say it, not only were Gantan and Torres high and drunk, so was Oscar; which was the point of the defense attorney's question to the coroner regarding toxicology testing.

Please, please, please do not drink and drive. And do not get into a vehicle with anyone who has been drinking. This message has been been stated over and over again, but the "I'm okay," or "I'm invincible" takes over with these type of tragic results.

Please, no more MTHS students/graduates dying from such stupidity.

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