Stoned Driver In Officer’s Death Acquitted

VICTORVILLE—A jury this week acquitted a 20-year-old Las Vegas man of gross vehicular manslaughter and deadlocked on the lesser charge of negligent vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated in regard to the death of California Highway Patrol  Officer Justin McGrory.
Rafael Garcia was driving a car with four passengers in the early morning of June 27, 2010 as they were returning to Las Vegas from Los Angeles when the vehicle plowed into McGrory, who was conducting a traffic stop on the right shoulder of northbound I-15 roughly a mile south of Hodge Road.
In  an interrogation by investigators after the accident, Garcia acknowledged he had smoked marijuana several hours before beginning the drive back to Las Vegas. A subsequent blood test showed there were cannabinoids in his system. Garcia said he had started to fall asleep at the wheel, but continued driving while using the car’s cruise control.
One of the passengers in the vehicle had a medical marijuana prescription and a search of the car turned up about two-and-a-half ounces of marijuana.
After deliberations lasting three-and-a-half days, the jurors made findings of not guilty of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated with marijuana, not guilty of gross vehicular manslaughter and not guilty of child endangerment of a juvenile who was in the car. The panel split 9-3 in favor of acquittal on a charge of negligent vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated
The jury did rule Garcia guilty of transporting marijuana after trial judge Eric Nakata refused to allow Michael Becker, Garcia’s attorney, to inform the jury that one of his passengers who had a medical prescription for marijuana was allowed to possess the drug under the terms of the Compassionate Use Act.
Becker, Garcia, and deputy district attorney Jill Gregory, who prosecuted Garcia, are due back in court on July 27 when motions from the district attorney’s office will be due on a decision of whether to proceed with a retrial of Garcia on the negligent vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated charge.

Leave a Reply