Last week the Yolo County District Attorney’s Office indicated it would not seek a second trial for Steven Hendrix, whose 2016 collision killed a 71-year-old Davis resident. The jury hung 11-1 on acquittal of the second degree-murder charge, but convicted him of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, driving under the influence of drugs causing injury and four counts of child endangerment.
While Mr. Hendrix now faces 42 years in state prison, he avoided the murder conviction which would have made this a life sentence.
A source told the Vanguard that they were appalled by both the prosecution of the case as well as the coverage of the trial in the Enterprise. They expressed a great deal of skepticism that they, as a white individual, would have been charged with murder had they been driving down the street at similar rates of speed and were in a collision that resulted in the death of a person.
The source told the Vanguard that, from the evidence the jury saw, “the murder charge was a definite stretch.” The DA ended up only getting one of the jurors to go along with murder in this case.
Some believed that there wasn’t enough evidence on this count to convict beyond a reasonable doubt. The source points to the fact that the police report contradicted the physician’s report at the hospital after the accident, with respect to “cottonmouth” and eye redness (moist mucous membranes on the medical report), which they cited as a red flag.
The police failed to take pictures of the eye redness which would have corroborated their testimony. Results of failed “critical” field sobriety tests were not added into the police report until hours after the initial report, which also generated skepticism in the jury.
The police alleged Hendrix’s pulse was high, but it was actually 114 beats per minute, which is barely considered tachycardia in a hospital and which became the basis for the meth impairment claim.
The blood results found marijuana and meth in his blood, but one of the problems there is, unlike blood alcohol levels, both stay in the system long after intoxication has worn off. The source noted that Mr. Hendrix is a chronic user and so positive tests might not mean intoxication.
Also, the crash expert determined his speed to be 77 mph rather than the 84 mph that the Enterprise reported.
The source indicated that none of this makes Mr. Hendrix “innocent” of the charges. He clearly was driving much too fast for the road. Unfortunately, someone made the fatal mistake of pulling out in front of him which, as we have noted in the past, is a common occurrence on Second Street.
In the view of the most of the jury, while Hendrix clearly committed some crimes, this does not amount to murder.
—David M. Greenwald reporting