A state appeals court panel Thursday upheld an Alhambra man’s murder conviction for a drunken crash on the Foothill (210) Freeway in Claremont that killed a Las Vegas man and left another man injured.
The three-justice panel from California’s 2nd District Court of Appeal rejected the defense’s contention that the trial court had erred in refusing to instruct jurors in the trial of Ryan Munoz about any lesser offenses.
Munoz — who was convicted in September 2016 of second-degree murder — is serving a 15-year-to-life prison sentence in connection with the June 28, 2014, crash.
Munoz’s truck rear-ended a Dodge pickup, with the vehicle being forced onto a raised dirt embankment where it overturned. The pickup’s passenger, Gevork Krpikyan, 27, was killed, and the pickup’s driver was injured.
Munoz had been convicted in 2012 of DUI and had been warned about the dangers of driving under the influence of alcohol, the justices noted.
The appellate court justices also rejected the defense’s contention that the trial court erred by not allowing him to contact a juror who wrote two letters to the court discussing the verdict after the trial ended and by allowing jurors to see a photo of Munoz smiling during his arrest.
“Munoz admitted that he was well aware of the hazards of driving while intoxicated, given his earlier conviction for driving under the influence and the subsequent required safety classes. Despite this knowledge, he made the decision to drive after drinking enough to raise his blood alcohol level to two-and-a-half times the legal limit,” the panel wrote in its 34-page ruling, which noted that “his driving was unquestionably highly dangerous” and that he drove at almost 100 mph. “In light of this strong evidence of conscious disregard for the lives of others, we do not think it reasonably probable the photograph affected the jury’s verdict.”
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