LOS ANGELES – A state appeals court panel on Wednesday upheld a former Palmdale resident’s second-degree murder conviction for leading deputies on a high-speed pursuit that ended in a crash that killed a toddler and seriously injured her mother in Lancaster.
The three-justice panel from California’s 2nd District Court of Appeal rejected the defense’s contention that the trial judge erred by refusing to inform jurors in Marvin Travon Hicks‘ murder retrial that the defendant had been convicted of gross vehicular manslaughter by the first jury to hear the case against him.
The first panel convicted Hicks in April 2014 of one count each of gross vehicular manslaughter and DUI causing injury and two counts of evading, but deadlocked 11-1 in favor of guilt on the murder charge.
The second jury to hear the case against him convicted him in October 2014 of second-degree murder for the Dec. 6, 2012, death of 2-year-old Madison Faye Ruano.
In its 27-page ruling, the appellate court panel found the evidence of defendant’s guilt on the murder charge to be “overwhelming.”
“There was evidence that defendant knew driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs was dangerous to human life, ingested PCP on the day of the incident, ‘made (the) decision’ to drive his vehicle, drove erratically, and collided with another vehicle killing a 2-year-old child,” the justices found.
They noted earlier in their ruling that Hicks had been required to participate in a program that focused on the dangers of driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs following his August 2001 DUI conviction.
The appellate court panel also rejected the defense’s claim that jurors should not have heard about the results of his blood test after the crash. The defense contended the blood draw was unconstitutional because it was not consensual and was done without a warrant.
Hicks led Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies on a chase during the afternoon rush-hour, in which he ran five red lights and spun out at one point, according to Deputy District Attorney Craig Kleffman.
Hicks was believed to be driving at least 70 mph while heading west on Avenue I when he slammed his black Toyota into a blue Lexus at 10th Street West, killing the child and seriously injuring her mother, Tina Marie Ruano.
A number of area intersections were closed in an effort to rush the girl to Antelope Valley Hospital, with a trauma surgeon testifying that “it felt like forever” that emergency room personnel tried unsuccessfully to save her life, Kleffman said after the verdict.
Sheriff’s deputies ordered Hicks out of his car at gunpoint after the crash, according to the prosecutor.
At Hicks’ sentencing last year, the girl’s father said he was “robbed of getting to hold my little girl because there was a criminal act that had to do with her death.”
“We were robbed of Madison’s life and all the experiences we were going to have with her because of the actions of Marvin Hicks,” Mike Ruano said. “Please ensure that he won’t ever get out and do this to another family.”
Edward Brentlinger said that when a doctor told the family his granddaughter was dead, “I felt my heart being ripped apart and I collapsed to the ground. I am sure the agony my family felt was the same as many families who have had a small child unexpectedly killed. The tears flowed for hours that became days that became months that has become almost two years, and the time has been devastating to our family.”
The girl’s other grandfather, Michael Ruano, said, “Words can’t begin to convey the hurt, pain and loss my family and I felt the day Mr. Hicks’ actions ended my granddaughter Madison’s life and injured her mother, Tina. We continue to struggle with that senseless act and always will.”
Previous related stories: