Davis Fatal Car Crash Prelim Resumes

YoloCourt-26By Sidney Adebayo

The preliminary hearing in the case against Steven Hendrix, facing murder and other charges, was conducted on Friday August 5, 2016, in Yolo County Superior Court, Department 13, at 8:30 a.m. The presiding judge for the hearing was Judge Paul Richardson.

The case against Hendrix deals with a fatal car crash that occurred on February 24, 2016, on Second Street at Cantrill Drive, in which the driver of the other vehicle died. The defendant Steven Hendrix, who was driving with his family, is believed to be responsible for the crash, due to reports of reckless driving made against him. He was arrested and detained following the incident and has been an inmate of the Yolo County Jail ever since. The continuation of the preliminary hearing today went over the witness testimonies of various police officers who responded to the crash. To ensure testimonies as honest and unbiased as possible, all other witnesses were ordered to leave the courtroom (the witness exclusion rule). Only the police officers gave testimony in this hearing. The defendant was not asked to testify at this time.

According to the testimonies of the various police officers who responded to the car crash, Hendrix was reportedly driving recklessly. The police did not catch up to him until after the fatal crash occurred, although they had a visual on Hendrix. When the police arrived at the scene they quickly examined any and all damages to the vehicles and civilians present, and they talked to potential witnesses, including Hendrix, to get further details on what happened.

Because Hendrix was reported as driving recklessly (speeding and performing illegal turns) in a red SUV, finally crashing into a silver sedan, police officers such as Daniel Lafond quickly rushed over to ask the defendant some questions. According to the police officer who arrested Hendrix, when the officer asked Hendrix why he thought he was being questioned, the defendant declared it was because he was the one driving – with no license, as he openly admitted – with his family in the vehicle.

Hendrix’s Recollection of Events According to Police

Furthermore, when the police asked Hendrix what his recollection was of the events which transpired, leading to the fatal car crash, Hendrix gave statements conflicting with what other witnesses observed. Contrasting to the claims made by others involved in the crash who said that Hendrix was driving 60-80 mph where the posted limit was 45 mph, Hendrix claimed he knew the speed limit was 45 mph and that he was driving 45 mph. The defendant seemed genuinely surprised that others present would even make that allegation. Hendrix also claimed that the woman in the silver sedan crashed into him. According to the defendant, according to his recollection of the events which led to the fatal car crash, he used the bike lane to pass a vehicle because the driver of that vehicle was driving like “Ms. Daisy.” Hendrix saw a bicycle rider nearby, but he did not drive too close to the bicycle. He said that, before the collision with the silver sedan, he stopped his vehicle in an attempt to avoid the other car crashing into him.

Witness Statements to Police

Hendrix’s recounting of events to the police, however, is in conflict with what other witnesses told the police. Several witnesses, including the bicycle rider, who were questioned by the police reported that Hendrix was indeed speeding, driving approximately 60-80 mph and not 45 mph. Also, the witnesses claimed that both Hendrix and the vehicle he was driving had a strong smell of marijuana. The witnesses also told police that the things Hendrix was saying did not make any sense and that Hendrix seemed emotionally disconnected from the incident, indicating Hendrix may have used drugs prior to driving.

Marijuana Found

The claims that Hendrix had taken drugs were looked into when the police officer who questioned Hendrix noted that the defendant was exhibiting strange behavior and characteristics. The officer noticed Hendrix had red eyes, that he was fidgeting and could not stay still, and his speech was slurred. Also, Hendrix could not even remain still when ordered to do so by police officers. The officer also noticed that the car smelled like marijuana, and, when searching the vehicle, he found marijuana stems, but not “nuggets,” in the car as well as “blunts” (thickly-rolled marijuana) which Hendrix claimed were not his.

According to the testimony of the police officer conducting the search of Hendrix’s vehicle, when he questioned Hendrix on his drug usage, the defendant admitted to smoking marijuana at 8:30 a.m. the morning of the fatal crash. Upon further questioning,  Hendrix revealed he smoked all the time and that he replenishes his stash approximately every two to three days. Hendrix admitted to the police that he did not have a medical marijuana card, but that his girlfriend once had one, which had expired. Hendrix also admitted to using methamphetamine approximately three to four days prior to the incident.

Hendrix, however, stated to the police, “I am 32 years old, got bullet holes in my body, and I done every type of drug there is so of course I’m not still going to be feeling the effects of weed.” Hendrix claimed to the police that it would take a “gong” of marijuana to affect his driving and that the last time he ever smoked that much marijuana was last week. The police officer, therefore, had Hendrix take part in several tests to discern whether Hendrix was still under the influence of marijuana, and he sought a warrant to take a blood sample from the defendant.

Defense Argues

Hendrix’s attorney, however, argued that the police officer did not know Hendrix that well and that common symptoms of drug use can be mistaken for other problems. For example, the red eyes could have been a symptom of Hendrix being really sleepy the day of the crash, or because of he had recently woken up and started driving that day.

The defense pointed out that the police officer does not know the way Hendrix talks, and the terms and language that Hendrix was using may not necessarily have been the defendant being emotionally disconnected from the incident, but simply the style and mannerisms that Hendrix grew up with and always exhibited. Also, Hendrix may have felt nervous, defensive or offended by the tone the police officer assumed during his questioning of Hendrix. Furthermore, no alcohol was found in the blood sample taken from Hendrix.

Also, Hendrix passed several of the tests the police officer had him undergo. For example, when Hendrix was asked to close his eyes for 30 seconds and count, in order to see if Hendrix’s internal clock had sped up or slowed down, Hendrix had counted up to 36 the first time and 32 the second time at the police station. These are average results, and are inconsistent with the normal results for someone feeling the effects of drug use. Also, the slurred speech the police and several witnesses claimed to have heard could have just been the way the defendant usually talks or could have even been the result of the head injury Hendrix claimed to have suffered during the crash.

Also, during an examination to see if Hendrix’s eyes had been dilated, the results showed that, in fact, his eyes were not dilated. However, the police testified that if a person is a chronic user of marijuana, as Hendrix is, instead of a first-time user, it is common for the eyes not to dilate due to being “burned out” from excessive marijuana usage.

The defense also continuously argued in court that none of the police officers summoned to testify had taken any courses or studies in the area of addiction, and are therefore not experts on the subject. As such, according to the defense, they should not be qualified to judge whether or not Hendrix was emotionally dependent on drugs.

Possible Racial Bias

According to several police officers, when they discussed the details of the incident with Hendrix, the defendant had made accusations that his being black had something to do with the witnesses and police testifying against him. Hendrix also, according to the police officer who questioned him, stated that this would not be a problem if the woman in the silver sedan had not died. The officer, however, claimed that skin color had nothing to do with the charges against and arrest of Hendrix.

About The Author

The Vanguard Court Watch operates in Yolo, Sacramento and Sacramento Counties with a mission to monitor and report on court cases. Anyone interested in interning at the Courthouse or volunteering to monitor cases should contact the Vanguard at info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org - please email info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org if you find inaccuracies in this report.

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      1. hpierce

        Thank you, again… the defendant surely didn’t need to have another “charge” added!

        Just curious… who does the captions/headers?  Author? Others?  Varies?

  1. Sulla

    As I recall, Hendrix was driving west at about 5:30 pm.  The day after the accident while I driving in the same direction at about the same time, the Sun was glaring directly into my eyes.  I  have learned that near sunset or sunrise, at certain times of the year, never to assume that an oncoming car can see me.

    1. Alan Miller

      You can bet his lawyers have that scoped.  Seems to me his rate of speed would have to have been pretty high — which it damn well could have been — for the car that was hit not to have been also at fault for not yielding to westbound traffic.  There is probably a certain speed at which you come to expect a car you see to be moving at a reasonable rate, even over the speed limit and judge on that, that you simply can’t perceive.

      It’s reasonable to assume the car isn’t going 50% over the speed limit when you make the judgement.  A such a speed, motion is difficult to detect, and by the time you pull out it’s too late.  I’ve had that happen when crossing 3rd or 4th in Old East and see a car in the distance and decide to pull out and then realize after it’s too late they are doing 45-50mph (in a 25 mph, a daily occurrence 24/7).

      1. tribeUSA

        Alan–yes, happens on other streets on East Davis too; including neighborhoods with children around–raising the blood pressure levels and degrading the safety and low-key ambience of the neighborhoods–maybe we can help make up the Davis budget deficit with police speed traps in these neighborhoods, ready to pounce on speeders with a hefty ticket.

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