Note: This story has been edited to clarify the options the jury has in deciding whether to convict Kaylee Weisenberg.
The fate of a Paso Robles woman accused of driving into and killing a CHP officer last year is now in the jury’s hands.
Lawyers finished closing arguments Wednesday in the trial against Kaylee Ann Weisenberg. The daylong hearing was held in San Luis Obispo Superior Court.
Weisenberg has pleaded not guilty to charges that include second-degree murder in the crash that killed Brett Oswald on South River Road near Paso Robles on June 27, 2010.
The jury will deliberate on two counts. Count 1 is second-degree murder. Count 2 is gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated. If the jury convicts on count 2, it could also choose from only one of five lesser driving-relating crimes ranging from felonies to misdemeanors.
The arguments focused on fiercely contested evidence that centered on whether Weisenberg was under the influence of methamphetamine, how fast she was driving and whether the officer put himself in harm’s way by standing in the roadway as he dealt with a disabled car.
Prosecutor Lee Cunningham said Weisenberg’s blood test showed her level of methamphetamine to be double the level that a prosecution expert witness believes shows someone is under the influence. Cunningham claimed she was on the downside of a meth high but still impaired.
But defense attorney Thomas McCormick said his client passed a field sobriety test that a CHP officer performed after the wreck. McCormick also said the test looked at a number of factors — ranging from pupil dilation to balance tests — and it showed “normal” results.
Cunningham said Weisenberg “drove like a maniac in the worst possible place” while speeding on a winding, undulating country road and crossing over double yellow lines before hitting Oswald.
The prosecutor said CHP officials carefully re-created the accident scene and calculated her speed at 80 mph in a 55 mph zone.
McCormick said his client “tragically” hit an officer who was standing “in the middle of the road” at a slower speed than CHP investigators have estimated.
McCormick said his client was driving at about 63 mph, according to his expert witness’ testimony, and called into question whether CHP officials were biased because they were investigating a case that involved a fellow officer.
The prosecution and defense both pointed out that CHP officials spent more time and energy on this case than they might otherwise have done because Oswald was a CHP officer.
But Cunningham countered that he wouldn’t apologize for the effort CHP investigators put into the case, calling the effort exhaustive.
Evidence from the CHP investigation showed Oswald stood somewhere near his car’s driver side door, which jutted into the roadway from its parked position on the shoulder.
Stephen Wagner, who handled the prosecution’s case with Cunningham, teared up at the end of his closing arguments and referred to Weisenberg as a ticking time bomb because of her past history that included citations, warnings and crashes.
But McCormick countered that Wagner’s tears were “playing with the jury’s emotions.”
Saying that “no winners” resulted from the crash, the defense attorney also argued that Oswald put himself in a dangerous spot while standing on the roadway in a 55 mph zone.
McCormick didn’t argue about Oswald’s exact location of impact, however, and prosecutors claim that Weisenberg still crossed over the double yellow line to hit him.
Wednesday marked the trial’s 15th day in Judge John Trice’s courtroom..
The jury has several options in deciding Kaylee Weisenberg's case:
- Not guilty or guilty verdict on Count 1: felony second-degree murder
- Not guilty or guilty verdict on Count 2: felony gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated
If Weisenberg is found not guilty on the gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated charge, the jury can decide whether to convict her of one of five lesser charges:
- Felony gross vehicular manslaughter without intoxication
- Felony vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated with ordinary negligence
- Felony driving under the influence causing injury
- Misdemeanor driving under the influence
- Misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter