After denying a motion for a new trial, Judge John Trice sentenced Kaylee Ann Weisenberg to 15 years to life in state prison Thursday for her August conviction of second-degree murder in the death of CHP Officer Brett Oswald.
Trice handed down the sentence in San Luis Obispo Superior Court after three of Oswald’s family members spoke — his sister, mother and wife — as well as Weisenberg, who apologized to the officer’s family.
Weisenberg, 24, was convicted by a jury of causing the crash that killed Oswald, who was 48, as he tended to a disabled car. She was high on methamphetamine when the wreck occurred June 27, 2010, in Paso Robles.
Oswald’s family wept at the sentencing, which was attended by about 50 people, including a group of CHP officers.
Marlena Oswald, the officer’s wife, said she lost her best friend, confidant and protector. She called her husband kind-hearted and giving.
“Being married to Brett, my future was set,” Marlena Oswald said. “To love and take care of my husband was all I wanted to do. Now, almost 22 months later, I still have nightmares of seeing Brett in the emergency room.”
A sobbing Weisenberg apologized for her actions, saying that she hoped the family sees that she has a heavy heart and that she’s sorry for her mistakes.
“I’m sorry for the pain I’ve caused you,” Weisenberg said.
Trice heard arguments from Weisenberg’s new attorney, Angelyn Gates, that the defendant’s previous attorney, Tom McCormick, had provided ineffective counsel.
Gates said she repeatedly pushed McCormick for information when she took over the case, but he was reluctant to provide it. Gates also said McCormick lied to her about some of his work on the case. She also alleged that he was drunk during the trial and his hands shook.
But Trice rejected the latter assertions, saying he never smelled alcohol on McCormick’s breath and attributed his shaking hands to nervousness in a public and highly pressurized setting.
Gates added that McCormick didn’t offer evidence to support Weisenberg’s state of mind during the wreck to disprove elements of the murder case, or provide character witnesses to present her in a more positive light.
“How can we say there’s not a reasonable possibility that the jury would have decided differently?” Gates argued. “All the jury heard was about poor driving and poor choices. The jury should have heard about the many times when she did drive properly and did make good choices.”
But Deputy District Attorney Lee Cunningham urged Trice to come to McCormick’s defense, having observed him in other cases.
McCormick wasn’t able to attend the hearing to testify due to health issues.
“If Tom McCormick had called other witnesses, it wouldn’t have changed the outcome of this trial,” Cunningham said.
Trice said the matter was “not a good case” for the defense, citing Weisenberg’s history of bad driving, as well as evidence of drug use and speeding at the time of the wreck.
“With all that, one would ask, as a defense attorney, what would he do?” Trice said. “... Mr. McCormick was not dealt a good hand.”
Trice said in his nine years as a judge, sentencings such as Weisenberg’s are always difficult. He compared the debris of the wreck on River Road to the emotional wreckage she caused.
“It seems to me that you’ve left a debris field of people,” Trice said.
Weisenberg was escorted out of the court in shackles while her family members who attended the trial throughout looked on solemnly.
She was sentenced to prison in Chowchilla.