Neon Tommy, the online news project of USC's Annenberg School of Journalism, came up with information yesterday that could complicate the prosecution of a married couple accused in a high-profile hit-and-run case. Last spring, students Adrianna Bachan and Marcus Garfinkle were hit by a car near the university and left on Jefferson Boulevard, allegedly by driver Claudia Cabrera, while her husband Josue Luna sat in the front passenger's seat. Bachan died, while Garfinkle was seriously injured.
Yesterday, Neon Tommy, referring to a coroner's autopsy report of Bachan, reported that the freshman was "double drunk" at the time of her being struck by the car -- that is, her blood-alcohol level, .17, was twice the legal driving limit. The two students had just left a party at a frat house that would later be suspended for unrelated matters connected to another party. Garfinkle has said neither he nor Bachan was drunk at the time of the accident.
The revelation immediately raises the question of how, if at all,
Bachan's blood-alcohol level could be leveraged by Cabrera and Luna's
defense lawyers. Possibly, if doubt can be thrown on the prosecution's
claim that the students were crossing Jefferson Boulevard within the crosswalk,
it might somewhat neutralize jurors' images of the accused as reckless
drivers. This possibility was not lost on Bachan's mother, Carmen
Bachan, who told Neon Tommy that her daughter's blood-alcohol content
"has nothing to do with what happened."
Responding to an L.A. Weekly query, veteran Los Angeles defense attorney Mark J. Werksman does not see much importance in the autopsy finding.
"The intoxication of the pedestrian normally wouldn't have anything to
do with the defense in a case like this," Werksman emailed, "unless the defense is going to
claim that the accident was caused by the behavior of the pedestrian . . . Certainly, the intoxication of the victim
would have zero bearing on a hit and run charge. How could it?"
The autopsy report could
become a novel tool for the defense -- almost as novel as the method
used to obtain the results of Adrianna Bachan's blood-alcohol level.
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According to the Neon Tommy story, a county criminalist drew "Bachan's
vitreous fluid, found in the eyeball between the retina and lens,
because sufficient blood could not be found in her system at the time
of her autopsy, two days after the accident."