San Luis Obispo Superior Court Judge Michael Duffy dismissed the driving-under-the-influence case against former CHP Capt. Martin Whited on Thursday.
Duffy ruled that the case against Whited — who appeared to be drunk when San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Department deputies found him in a parked car near Templeton in March 2009 — didn’t have sufficient evidence to proceed.
County Deputy District Attorney Kristy Imel concluded her evidence Thursday and then defense attorney Ilan Funke-Bilu filed his motion for judgment to acquit — which Duffy granted.
Funke-Bilu noted that the deputies who found Whited didn’t ask questions that authorities typically ask when investigating a DUI, such as if the person had been drinking, if he’d been driving or when he stopped the car.
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No blood-alcohol test or field-sobriety test ever was administered to Whited.
Whited declined to comment on the dismissal outside court, referring questions to his attorney.
Funke-Bilu said he was disappointed that the case was prosecuted, and that it took so long for Whited to be acquitted. “I don’t think this case ever should have gone to trial,” Funke-Bilu said. “And there were a lot of judicial resources spent pursuing it over the past two years.”
Sheriff’s Deputy Michael Norris testified that he spoke on the phone with his watch commander — Sgt. Dale Strobridge — and informed him of the situation on El Pomar Road near Templeton on March 12, 2009.
Norris said he and Deputy Matthew Terrell waited with Whited until CHP Capt. Bill Vail arrived to pick Whited up and take him home.
Norris commented on radio dispatch that Whited was “(expletive) blottoed” based on his observations — including slurred speech and a wobbly gait.
Norris testified in court that the Sheriff’s Department has an understanding that the CHP will be called to conduct DUI arrests if a deputy suspects a drunken driver.
But Norris also said on an audio recording to Whited that he’d be getting a ride home, but “I just have to cover my rear as you well know, ’cause you’re a captain.”
An internal investigation by the CHP eventually led to Whited’s arrest.
Chief Deputy District Attorney Jerret Gran said the ruling surprised prosecutors.
“As was stated in court, we felt there was sufficient evidence to allow the case to proceed and for the jury to deliberate,” Gran said.
Funke-Bilu said that based on the evidence presented in court, he believes Duffy reached the right conclusion.
“It’s gratifying to see the system work the way it’s designed to,” Funke-Bilu said.