In California, once convicted of a DUI, a person usually faces suspension of license, probation, and mandatory DUI classes. Sometimes, at the trial, a judge will warn that person that if they are in a DUI collision and they kill someone, they will face possible charges of DUI murder, which is a second-degree murder charge. Other times, the probation officer or the DUI school will advise the convicted person, advising them to sign what is known as a Watson advisement. The advisement is related to a 1981 California Supreme Court case which paved the way for a fatal DUI accident to be grounds for a murder charge if someone has signed such an advisement or attended DUI school.
The Reporter reports on a Vaca man who was found guilty of DUI murder for a 2017 fatal crash.
On January 31st, after deliberating for just under 3 hours, a Solano Superior Court Jury convicted 67-year-old Thomas J. Astarita of the second-degree murder of Cynthia Clay, 48.
The charges stem from an accident that occurred on July 31, 2017. Astarita ran a red light at the intersection of Marshall Road and Nut Tree Road and slammed into Clay’s vehicle. Clay was taken to a local hospital where she succumbed to her injuries.
During testimony, Astarita’s lawyer argued that his condition was not due to DUI, but due to a brain injury that Astarita suffered in 2017. The attorney also argued that Astarita was poorly represented in the case in 2013 and that there was no attorney’s signature on the Watson agreement signed by Astarita.
The prosecution argued that Astarita chose to represent himself and that was why there was no attorney’s signature on the Watson agreement.
Astarita is due to be sentenced on March 15th. He faces 15 years to life in prison. Astarita’s attorney says that he plans to appeal the verdict.