At the start of the trial for a Paso Robles woman accused of killing a CHP officer in an auto wreck, prosecutors described her Monday as a reckless driver with a toxic level of methamphetamine in her system on the day of the crash just over a year ago.
But defense attorney Tom McCormick countered in San Luis Obispo Superior Court that evidence shows Kaylee Ann Weisenberg, then 22, wasn’t under the influence during the June 27, 2010, crash that killed Officer Brett Oswald along South River Road near Paso Robles.
And McCormick said the jury would need to decide whether the crash meets the standard of murder or whether it was merely a terrible accident.
Weisenberg has pleaded not guilty to felony charges of second-degree murder, gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, inflicting great bodily injury in the commission of a felony and driving under the influence causing great bodily injury. She was driving with a suspended license, according to the prosecution.
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Testimony in the trial — which is expected to last several weeks — resumes at 1:30 p.m. today.
Deputy District Attorney Lee Cunningham said in his opening statement that Weisenberg was a “ticking time bomb” when Oswald was struck.
He cited a driving record of five collisions — two involving injuries — for which she was at fault and seven citations, including one case when she was allegedly driving 91 mph in a 65 mph zone.
Cunningham said investigators interviewed 12 people, including a friend who had warned Weisenberg to be more careful on the road.
“They will all tell you some version of the same,” Cunningham said. “They told her, ‘If you keep driving like this, you’ll kill yourself or someone else.’ ”
In order to prove second-degree murder, Cunningham will have to show that Weisenberg’s conduct showed an obvious lack of concern for human life.
Cunningham pointed out that Weisenberg called herself “Miss Sinful” on her MySpace page.
He said the CHP estimated her speed, based on skid marks and other information, as about 80 mph in a 55 mph zone when the wreck happened while Oswald was tending to an abandoned car.
McCormick said in his opening statement that Weisenberg just had an argument with her boyfriend and was driving on South River Road to relax.
The defense lawyer noted that no witness could testify that she was driving too fast, and he said she was distraught, sobbing by the side of the road when witnesses arrived to help.
McCormick said Weisenberg was startled to see Oswald in the “middle of the roadway” and added that he wasn’t in a safe location when the wreck occurred.
A CHP investigator who went to Twin Cities Community Hospital in Templeton concluded that Weisenberg wasn’t under the influence, McCormick said.
The prosecution is expected to present evidence of blood and urine test results that show meth in Weisenberg’s system.
But McCormick said the laboratory expert who conducted the test was forced to quit a previous job before being fired, indicating he’ll question the technician’s credibility.
“Yes, she is a terrible driver, but is she guilty of murder?” McCormick asked the jury. “Was this negligence? Was this an accident? ... You’ll have a chance to answer.”
Judge John Trice said key issues in the trial include whether Weisenberg was under the influence and her alleged negligence as a driver.
Witnesses who testified Monday included bystanders who tried to help Oswald and called 911, including a witness who said the officer was breathing heavily and lying on his back in the middle of the road and didn’t respond when he spoke to him.