Whether a Santa Maria man with two DUI convictions was driving under the influence when his vehicle collided with two others parked on the side of Highway 101, killing a motorist, will be up to a San Luis Obispo jury to decide.
William Riley Mobley, 35, has pleaded not guilty to felony charges for murder, gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, DUI resulting in injury, and leaving the scene of the accident near Arroyo Grande. The charges carry sentencing enhancements for Mobley’s two past DUI convictions in 2009 and 2010.
If convicted, the murder charge carries a potential life sentence.
Authorities say on Sept. 15, 2016, Mobley’s pickup hit two cars parked on the shoulder of southbound Highway 101 near El Campo Road, killing Richard Stabile, 68, of Santa Maria, who was inside a vehicle waiting for a tow truck. Mobley allegedly fled the scene in the pickup, then on foot, and was later found hiding in brush.
The case against Mobley is a so-called “Watson” murder case, named after the legal advisement signed by repeat DUI offenders on probation that states that driving under the influence is potentially deadly, and that if a person continues to drive drunk and someone dies as a result, the probationer may be charged with murder.
Mobley had twice signed Watson advisements prior to the 2016 crash.
The first (DUI) was intended as a wake up call — it didn’t work.
Deputy District Attorney Stephen Wagner
His trial began Nov. 6 and has featured testimony from law enforcement officials, motor vehicle accident investigators, a blood alcohol content expert and Mobley’s drinking companion, with whom video shows he consumed about five beers over a period of three hours at Harry’s Nightclub & Beach Bar prior to the crash.
In his closing arguments Monday, Deputy District Attorney Stephen Wagner recounted witness testimony that Stabile was helping out a coworker whose Volkswagen Jetta had stalled on the side of the highway. Stabile waited in his Toyota Camry behind the Jetta on the side of the road for a tow truck to help his friend.
Wagner recounted how the other motorist testified hearing a roar allegedly from Mobley’s tires on the highway’s rumble strips before he was knocked unconscious. That motorist was injured in the crash and tried unsuccessfully to help Stabile, who was later pronounced dead at the scene.
“Richard Stabile died instantly in the Camry in the role of Good Samaritan,” Wagner said.
Wagner spoke extensively about Mobley’s past DUI convictions and the court-ordered requirements for DUI offenders, including the probation department’s Watson advisement.
“The ink on the first Watson advisement in 2009 was barely dry when (Mobley) received his second,” Wagner said. “The first was intended as a wakeup call. It didn’t work.”
Wagner read back to jurors transcripts of Mobley’s jailhouse phone conversations that Wagner said showed Mobley’s “callous” state of mind. In one conversation, he told his mother that the crash had already happened when he came upon it, and that he had only damaged his truck’s bumper when he struck one of the vehicles.
In another conversation, according to the transcript, Mobley told his father that a potential jury would have to be “a bunch of idiots” to convict him of a crime.
The DA is asking the jury to ignore science-based information on impairment.
Christopher Parkhurst, attorney for William Mobley
Mobley’s defense attorney, Christopher Parkhurst, however, urged the jury not to be swayed by emotion, saying that the case comes down to whether Mobley was actually driving over the legal limit of 0.08 blood alcohol content.
“This is a tough case, this is a tragic case,” Parkhurst said, adding that his client “feels like an absolute fool” for not learning from his previous DUI convictions. “Mr. Stabile ... was a good man. He doesn’t deserve to be dead.”
Parkhurst said Mobley is not contesting the fact that he fled the scene of the accident, but Parkhurst said Mobley was not legally drunk, based on testimony from one of the defense’s two witnesses, an blood alcohol content expert.
That expert testified that, by his calculations based on the Harry’s surveillance video, Mobley would have had a roughly 0.14 BAC at the time of the crash if his body had not processed any of the alcohol, which the body does naturally at a rate of roughly a drink per hour.
According to the expert’s calculations, Mobley would have had between 0.04 and 0.05 BAC, under the legal limit.
“The crux of the defense is impairment,” Parkhurst said. “The DA is asking the jury to ignore science-based information on impairment.”
Parkhurst furthermore said that Mobley’s blood sample was left unrefrigerated, and when it was tested five days after the crash, it contained certain contaminants.
The defense is expected to finish closing statements Tuesday before Wagner’s rebuttal. The jury will then begin deliberations.
In order to convict Mobley of the second-degree murder charge, jumors must find he acted with “implied malice,” which Wagner said consists on four elements: that Mobley intentionally committed the act (driving), that the probable consequences were loss of life, that he knew the act to be potentially deadly, and that he deliberately acted with conscious disregard for human life.
He remains in San Luis Obispo County Jail in lieu of $50,000.