The 23-year-old Paso Robles woman accused of driving her car into a CHP officer and killing him last year was found guilty Friday of second-degree murder and gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated.
Kaylee Ann Weisenberg initially stared ahead as a court clerk read the jury’s verdict in a tense courtroom in San Luis Obispo Superior Court. Then she began sobbing while seated next to her attorneys.
In the packed audience, Marlena Oswald, the widow of Brett Oswald, hugged a relative and broke down in tears.
Weisenberg now faces a sentencing hearing scheduled for Sept. 8 before Judge John Trice. She could be in prison for the rest of her life.
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Oswald was 48 when he was fatally struck by Weisenberg on South River Road near Paso Robles on June 27, 2010.
“It’s unfortunate, but Kaylee Weisenberg has to pay for her decisions,” Marlena Oswald said outside court. “Justice was served.”
Marlena Oswald — who left the courtroom in tears during some moments of the 15-day trial — said her husband was her “soul mate,” adding that he “cherished his community and loved his job.”
Weisenberg’s attorney, Thomas McCormick, said he was “stunned” by the verdict.
“I don’t believe an accident constitutes second-degree murder,” said McCormick, adding that he didn’t believe Weisenberg was driving under the influence of methamphetamine at the time of the crash.
McCormick said he’ll appeal the case, which typically requires proving the judge made mistakes about legal decisions during the trial.
Weisenberg faced a wide range of possible verdicts that included lesser charges for driving-related offenses, including misdemeanor driving under the influence.
A conviction of second-degree murder carries a mandatory sentence of life in state prison with the possibility of parole after 15 years. But state inmates convicted of life sentences rarely tend to be released.
Weisenberg likely won’t be punished for the conviction of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated because of the greater charge of second-degree murder.
Oswald was struck after Weisenberg crossed the double yellow lines on South River Road and hit the officer, who was dealing with a disabled car, evidence showed.
During the trial, a CHP officer testified that Weisenberg passed a field sobriety test that included an examination of her pupils, balance and pulse after the crash.
But the toxicologist testified that Weisenberg’s blood level showed a “toxic” level of meth.
The prosecution presented evidence that Weisenberg was driving at 80 mph in a 55 mph zone, while the defense estimated she was driving 63 mph.
After closing arguments finished late in the day Wednesday, the jury spent most of Thursday deliberating, returning Friday before issuing a midmorning verdict.
Jury foreman Norm Eggen said the panel was prepared to spend as much time as it took to decide the case, and jurors were diligent in their discussions of the evidence.
“We didn’t take this lightly,” Eggen said. “There were human beings involved in this case. We were prepared to spend a week as long as it took.”
Eggen said he didn’t want to talk about the specifics of how the jury came to its conclusion, but said he polled each juror before making a final decision that was unanimous.
Proving second-degree murder required the prosecution to show that Weisenberg acted with conscious disregard of the possibility of killing someone when she took the wheel June 27, 2010.
Prosecutors Stephen Wagner and Lee Cunningham emphasized the evidence of Weisenberg’s meth intoxication, a driving history that included citations and collisions, prior warnings from friends that she drove too fast, and her excessive speed on South River Road.
Outside court, Wagner and Cunningham both referred to the verdict as a “relief,” saying the outcome was appropriate.