A state appeals court panel Wednesday upheld a man’s conviction for second-degree murder for a crash that killed three people at a Lancaster intersection four years ago.
The three-justice panel from California’s 2nd District Court of Appeal concluded that “sufficient evidence supported the jury’s verdict” in the case of Davion Demetrious Murphy.
Murphy, now 23, was convicted in March 2020 of three counts of second-degree murder stemming from the Jan. 11, 2018, collision at the corner of Avenue J-8 and Challenger Way that killed Yovany Salazar Calzada, 23, Rocio Perez Lopez, 26, and Calzada’s grandmother, Virginia Martinez, 61.
Murphy — whose three passengers survived the collision — went through a red light in his silver Lexus and struck the driver’s side of the Subaru WRX containing the victims, according to Deputy District Attorney Casey Higgins.
“Although there is not yet a commonly administered and standardized medical test equivalent to the blood alcohol concentration test that accurately determines a person’s level of impairment from lipophilic, psychoactive drugs such as marijuana, there was substantial evidence that at the time of the accident Murphy was impaired from using marijuana,” the appellate court panel found in its 30-page ruling. “There was also substantial evidence that Murphy acted with implied malice both when he smoked marijuana with the intent to drive, and when he drove in a manner that demonstrated a conscious disregard for human life.”
The justices noted that eyewitness accounts and physical evidence from the accident scene demonstrated that Murphy drove through a red light at a speed of 88.1 mph — more than 48 mph over the applicable speed limit — in a residential neighborhood without braking or honking the car horn.
Instructors at his youth educational program had shared personal accounts about the dangers of driving while under the influence of alcohol and drugs, and Murphy had signed a driver’s license application affirming that he had been advised that driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs could lead to a murder charge, according to the appellate court panel’s ruling. Murphy also had a marijuana container in his car that was labeled with a specific warning against driving under the influence of marijuana, the justices added.
Murphy has been behind bars since his November 2018 arrest, and was sentenced in July 2020 to 15 years to life in state prison.
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