A San Clemente man was convicted Monday of second-degree murder Monday for a drug-fueled crash on the San Diego (405) Freeway in Seal Beach that killed a 10-year-old girl and injured her father and sister.
Adam John Kanas, 39, was also found guilty of two counts of driving under the influence of a drug causing injury with sentencing enhancements for inflicting great bodily injury on the two victims who survived.
Jurors began deliberating on Wednesday and reached a verdict Monday morning.
Kanas is scheduled to be sentenced Jan. 10 at the Central Justice Center in Santa Ana.
Kanas rammed his Chevrolet Tahoe into the back of a Tesla carrying Kendra Geddis, who died in the Aug. 15, 2016, crash that her 13-year-old sister, Kayla, and father, Don Geddis, survived.
“He turned that girl into a certified death certificate,” Feldman said in his closing argument, pointing to a photo of the 10-year-old victim., who lived in the San Francisco Bay area city of Hillsborough.
The first 911 call about Kanas’ erratic driving in the southbound lanes of the San Diego (405) Freeway came in just before 6:55 a.m., but authorities 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’ SUV veered over three lanes into the high-occupancy vehicle lane, where it slammed into the Tesla at 68 mph, Feldman said. The Tesla was going 12 mph, he said.
Kanas had Carisoprodol, a muscle relaxant, in his system at the time, along with the painkiller Oxycodone and the anxiety medication Alprazolan, Feldman said.
The defendant had a prior conviction for drunken driving on March 10, 2015, in Los Angeles County. As part of his plea deal, he had to take first-offender DUI classes and was warned that if he got another DUI and someone died as a result, he would face a charge of second-degree murder instead of gross vehicular manslaughter.
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 who questioned him after that crash that he was driving to Hollywood and was “late.” The prosecutor 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 Meneses 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 told jurors 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 argued that some people develop higher tolerances for prescription medication.
When authorities served a search warrant at Kanas’ home following his arrest, they found a business plan he had drawn up for a sober living house that he wanted to start, Feldman said.
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