LOS ANGELES – A state appeals court panel on Thursday upheld a man’s second-degree murder conviction for a drunken driving crash in Lancaster that killed two young men on their way home from work nearly four years ago.
The three-justice panel from California’s 2nd District Court of Appeal rejected the defense’s contention that there was insufficient evidence to support Tommie Lee Cole‘s conviction on two counts of second-degree murder stemming from the Feb. 26, 2012, crash that killed Beau Josh Owen Fluker and Jeffrey Daniel Gilstrap.
Fluker, 26, and Gilstrap, 23, were en route home after working late shifts at a Walmart store when their vehicle was broadsided at the intersection of Avenue J and 20th Street West just before 2:30 a.m. and came to rest atop a fire hydrant.
Cole — who was arrested for DUI in 2009 and attended an alcohol program for six months — had signed an acknowledgement that outlined the dangers of drinking and driving, including the possibility that he could be charged with murder if he killed someone while driving under the influence of alcohol, the appeals court justices noted in a 13-page ruling.
“Defendant’s prior drunk driving offense, his blood-alcohol level and decision to drive while intoxicated, and his highly dangerous acts of speeding and attempting to ‘beat’ a yellow light are substantial evidence to support the jury’s conclusion that the subjective standard for implied malice was satisfied,” the appellate court panel noted.
A criminalist from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department concluded that Cole’s blood-alcohol content at the time of the crash was more than 2 1/2 times the legal limit, according to the ruling.
Along with second-degree murder, Cole was convicted in February 2014 of two counts each of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated and one count each of driving under the influence and driving with a 0.08 percent blood alcohol content.
He was sentenced to 30 years to life in state prison.
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