A 39-year-old San Clemente man made the choice to take prescription medication that impaired his driving despite a prior warning in a DUI conviction, so he should be convicted of murdering a 10-year-old girl and injuring her father and sister, a prosecutor argued Monday.
However, the attorney representing Adam John Kanas argued that the prosecution’s case “fell apart” when it failed to prove the defendant’s prescription medicine impaired his driving.
Kanas is charged with one count of second-degree murder and two counts of driving under the influence of a drug causing injury with sentencing enhancements for inflicting great bodily injury.
Kanas is accused of ramming his Chevrolet Tahoe into the back of a Tesla carrying 10-year-old Kendra Geddis, who died in the Aug. 15, 2016, crash, and her 13-year-old sister, Kayla, and father, Don Geddis, who were both injured.
The first 911 call about Kanas’ erratic driving came in just before 6:55 a.m. on the day of the crash in the southbound lanes of the San Diego (405) Freeway, but police could not track him down, according to Senior Deputy District Attorney Dan Feldman. The next 911 call came in at 9:15 a.m. northbound on the San Diego Freeway in Seal Beach, Feldman said.
As traffic slowed, Kanas’ vehicle veered over three lanes into the high-occupancy vehicle lanes, where it slammed into the Tesla going 68 mph, Feldman said. The Tesla was going 12 mph, he added.
Kanas had Carisoprodol, a muscle relaxant, Oxycodone, a pain killer, and the anxiety medication Alprazolan, or Xanax, in his system at the time, Feldman said.
Kanas had a prior conviction for drunken driving March 10, 2015, in Los Angeles County. As part of his plea deal he had to take first-offender drunken driving classes and was warned that if he got another DUI and someone died in the crash he would face a charge of second-degree murder instead of gross vehicular manslaughter.
Kanas also drawn up a business plan for a sober living house, Serenity United, that he wanted to start, Feldman said.
“He turned that girl into a certified death certificate,” Feldman said, pointing to a picture of the victim, Kendra.
To be convicted of second-degree, or implied malice, murder Feldman had to prove to jurors that Kanas engaged in behavior that he knew could be deadly.
“It’s a totality of the act,” Feldman explained, pointing to the reckless driving, impairment from the drugs, and knowing better because of the prior warnings.
Feldman also noted that Kanas told police questioning him about that crash that he was driving to Hollywood and was “late.” He showed jurors a clip of Kanas nodding off during questioning and, at times, snapping back awake.
“He chose to ignore the warnings,” Feldman said. “He chose to use the drugs. He chose to drive… Nothing explains this other than he knew better and gambled with human lives.”
Defense attorney Robert Gottlieb honed in on the testimony of Orange County Crime Lab forensic scientist Vanessa Meneses to make his case that the prosecution failed to prove his client was guilty of second-degree murder.
Gottlieb noted that she would not confirm that Kanas’ ingestion of his prescription medication before the crash had impaired his driving.
“He was not driving while impaired on his own drugs and the state did not prove otherwise,” Gottlieb argued.
Gottlieb noted that Meneses was the prosecution’s witness and that after her first time on the stand she was called into the District Attorney’s Office for a meeting with prosecutors, who put her back on the stand to testify further.
“They went after her, their own witness,” Gottlieb argued. “This case is riddled with doubt, confusion and contradictions.”
Gottlieb also faulted authorities for failing to do more investigation, because if they did they would have better understood Meneses’ position.
Gottlieb argued that some people develop higher tolerances for prescription medication.