By Roselyn Poommai
SACRAMENTO, CA – “Unfortunately, forgiveness does not equal immediate pain relief, especially when dealing with such a deep wound like losing your child,” wrote the victim’s parents in a letter to defendant Jesus Sandoval, who could be seen blinking back tears in court in Wednesday in Sacramento County Superior Court.
Sandoval was in court, charged with driving under the influence and vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence, for a bail review hearing.
According to police reports, on Jan. 8, at around 2:10 a.m., the victim and a witness were standing near State Route 99 negotiating a minor bump that occurred between their two vehicles. At the time, the road was covered in a “super thick” fog that significantly reduced the road’s visibility.
A passing witness reported noticing a vehicle shortly behind her traveling at high speeds and evidently “out of control.” Moments later, defendant Sandoval’s car plunged onto the scene, “sideswiping” the witness’s car and striking the victim.
The victim was sent to the hospital, where she was later pronounced deceased from blunt force trauma.
The defendant was said to be traveling no less than 65 miles per hour. Upon contacting Sandoval at the scene, responding CHP Officer Brandon Timberlake noticed apparent signs of intoxication, including an alcoholic odor from Sandoval’s breath and slurred speech.
Sandoval admitted he had consumed a can of beer and shot of tequila approximately “four to six hours” before the collision. He also explained that his vehicle’s brakes “weren’t functioning as normal” and “took more effort to apply” to them than usual.
After conducting a field sobriety test around 3:55 a.m., Officer Timberlake soundly concluded that the defendant was still under the influence with blood alcohol level showing multiple times above .116, well above the legal limit.
During the defense’s cross-examination of Officer Timberlake, the defense attempted to establish that his client’s blood alcohol level was much lower, therefore absent of intoxication, at the time of the collision.
“Is it possible that his blood alcohol was a .08 or .09 at the time of the incident,” defense attorney Kurtz asked, suggesting that Sandoval’s alcohol levels were only above the legal limit when measured by Officer Timberlake two hours later.
Officer Timberlake testified that it is impossible for one’s blood alcohol level to significantly rise two hours later unless they had consumed alcohol after the incident, which was not the case here. “The alcohol would be eliminated from his body, from the time of the collision on, so it should be going down,” he explained.
Moving away from his original argument, Mr. Kurtz further suggested that the defendant’s brake’s mechanical issues, rather than his intoxication, had hindered him from slowing his vehicle.
However, Deputy District Attorney Adrianne McMillan established that the malfunctioning brakes should have caused issues before the collision, since Sandoval had already traveled a long distance that night.
She also proposed that it was highly unrealistic for the defendant’s blood alcohol level to be that high, considering he had reported drinking hours before the incident.
“Is it realistic to you that Mr. Sandoval had one beer and one shot of tequila 5-6 hours before the collision and had a blood alcohol concentration at that level?” asked DDA McMillan.
Officer Timberlake responded, “I would testify that that’s absolutely not accurate.”
During the defense’s re-cross, Kurtz then tried to establish that the victim’s injuries were not sustained directly from Sandoval’s vehicle but rather from the impact of the other car the defendant had sideswiped at the scene.
However, Officer Timberlake noted the evident impact on Sandoval’s windshield and the front bumper was consistent with the victim’s injuries.
After the lengthy two-hour testimony, DDA McMillan presented a heartfelt letter addressed to the defendant written by the victim’s parents upon deciding his bail conditions.
As the letter illuminated the victim’s life, Defendant Sandoval could be seen blinking back tears as he sat beside his defense attorney at the counsel table.
“We’re mentally and emotionally strained because of your wrongdoing,” DDA McMillan recited. However, the victim’s family expressed forgiveness and wished no harm or revenge brought upon Sandoval.
“I’m letting you know this because I want you to know we have forgiven you,” the letter read. “What I want for you is to change as a person and maybe one day, be a great person who can improve our society and warn other young people about drinking and driving.”
Moved, Judge Shelleyanne Chang released Sandoval on an O.R. (own recognizance) with no bail required.
Sandoval faces charges of a DUI and vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence and is scheduled to appear in court again on June 24.
Roselyn is a second-year undergraduate double-majoring in Psychological Science and Criminology, Law and Society at the University of California, Irvine. A native of Los Angeles, California, she is passionate about the role of human behavior in the criminal justice system.
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