A Santa Maria man with a history of drunken driving faces 15 years to life in prison after a San Luis Obispo jury found him guilty of second-degree murder Wednesday for hitting and killing a motorist on Highway 101 after a night of drinking in Pismo Beach.
William Riley Mobley, 35, was convicted of the 2016 crash near Arroyo Grande that killed 68-year-old Richard Stabile of Santa Maria, who was inside a car waiting for a tow truck on the side of the highway.
“This was a tough case,” Mobley’s defense attorney, Jimmy Askew, said outside the courtroom after the verdict. “There wasn’t going to be any winners, no matter what the jury chose to do.”
After less than a day of deliberations, the jury of six men and six women also found Mobley guilty of four other charges — gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, DUI resulting in injury, driving with 0.08 blood alcohol content or higher, and leaving the scene of the accident — as well as sentencing enhancements for his two past DUI convictions.
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In California, people convicted of DUI must sign acknowledgments by probation officials advising them that if they continue to drive impaired and someone dies as a result, they could be charged with murder. Mobley had twice signed so-called “Watson advisements.”
There wasn’t going to be any winners, no matter what the jury chose to do.
Defense attorney James Askew
On Sept. 15, 2016, Mobley’s pickup hit two cars parked on the shoulder of southbound Highway 101 near El Campo Road, killing Stabile, who was inside a Toyota Camry waiting for a tow truck for a friend parked in front of him in a stalled Volkswagon Jetta. Mobley crashed into the Camry, killing Stabile instantly. He then fled the scene before being found hiding in nearby brush.
During the monthlong trial, jurors heard from motor vehicle accident investigators and blood alcohol content experts and saw video surveillance from a Pismo Beach bar that showed Mobley drinking about five beers over roughly three hours before the crash.
Deputy District Attorney Stephen Wagner noted that Mobley had twice been convicted of DUI in 2009 and 2010, yet he chose to continue drinking and driving, despite being warned by his probation officers in a “Watson advisement” that he could be tried for murder if he drove intoxicated and someone died as a result.
Mobley’s defense attorney, Christopher Parkhurst, argued that, based on a blood alcohol concentration expert’s testimony, Mobley was under the legal limit of 0.08 blood alcohol content at the time of the crash.
The defendant sat mostly motionless as the verdict was read Wednesday.
As the jury exited the courtroom, foreman Mark Barton said that all jurors took meticulous notes during four weeks of testimony and deliberations kicked off swiftly Tuesday morning. He said even though the prosecution made a strong and detailed case, jurors spent significant time reviewing the defense witnesses’ testimony.
“We made a conscious effort to play devil’s advocate,” Barton said.
Deputy District Attorney Wagner said following the hearing he applauds the jury’s individual and collective focus.
“The best post-verdict reaction that I can share is one of ‘relief’ that the jury followed the law as instructed and that it might bring a sense of closure to Mrs. Stabile and her family,” Wagner wrote in an email.
Askew said that he and his client were disappointed in the verdict and are weighing his options as to whether he’ll appeal.
Mobley is scheduled to be sentenced Feb. 9 in San Luis Obispo Superior Court.