Why Hendrix Was Not Convicted of Murder

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.

Mr. Hendrix was allegedly intoxicated on methamphetamine and marijuana but, even on this charge, the jury was originally split.

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

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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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    1. David Greenwald

      Wasn’t my comment. But people will often pull in and make unsafe turns. It’s not blaming the victim, it’s assessing culpability of the accused. If she made a turn without accurately accessing speed and distance, then that plays into whether the death was murder.

  1. Jim Hoch

    “But people will often pull in and make unsafe turns” Are you says she did this or are you just assigning blame to the PONC to excuse the POC which is your usual pattern?

  2. Dave Hart

    I think the point of David’s article is that to prove murder in the second degree, the DA had to prove beyond a doubt to everyone on the jury that the defendant did it with the knowledge that someone would probably try to pull out in front of him, that he would not be able to avoid them and they would die as a result.  It was obvious this guy was living in his own world and oblivious to the rest of the world.  It was manslaughter, not murder and should have been tried as such.  42 years is a long time.

  3. Shereen Daftari

    Dead is a long time. My friends will never see their mother or grandmother again. EVER!!!!

    Do you think he’ll be doing something worthwhile or contributing to society in some way in the next 40 years if he’s not serving time?

  4. Shereen Daftari

    Keep in mind that a 42 year sentence will probably keep him incarcerated for only about 12 years. Which he will probably serve concurrently with the other 7 years he had before for beating his gf. So he will serve maybe 12 years and Cynthia is dead forever.

    1. David Greenwald

      In California, violent offenders have to serve 85% of their sentence before they become eligible for parole. So if he is sentenced to 42 years, he would have to serve just under 36 years.

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