Most of the time in California, in order to face DUI murder charges, also known as Watson murder, a person needs a previous DUI offense. This is because a prosecutor needs to produce evidence that the suspect acted with implied malice. Implied malice means that the suspect knew that by driving drunk, they were putting other lives at risk. However, if there are other traffic laws broken during the commission of the DUI, such as reckless driving, excessive speeding, or road rage, the prosecutor may be able to make a case for implied malice without a previous DUI.
Gustavo DeLaCruz was 35 and in the country illegally when he drove a Ford Explorer on Comanche Drive in 2013. He crossed over into oncoming traffic and hit a Chevy Colorado being driven by 29-year-old Taylor Embree. Tests administered to DeLaCruz showed that his blood-alcohol level was .10 at the time of the accident.
The force of the impact sheared the cab of Embree’s truck off of the frame, killing the man instantly.
At the time of the accident, DeLaCruz had two previous DUI offenses. He had a suspended driver’s license. He was also on probation.
In March 2016, a Bakersfield jury found DeLaCruz guilty of second-degree murder and driving drunk on a suspended or revoked license. He was sentenced to 15 years to life plus 10 years in prison.
In his most recent appeal, DeLaCruz’s attorney argued that he had been deprived of the right to face witnesses against him. This was because the technician who analyzed DeLaCruz’s blood sample did not testify.
The 5th District Court of Appeals in Fresno unanimously rejected the argument. They stated that even if the testimony of the lab supervisor had been excluded, DeLaCruz still would have been convicted.
DeLaCruz’s first parole hearing is scheduled for 2025.