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Jury gets case of driver in Halloween crash that killed Long Beach family of 3

Deliberations began late Friday in the trial of a Long Beach man who ran over and killed a family of three during an alcohol-fueled crash in Bixby Knolls on Halloween night in 2019, as jurors will have to decide whether the driver knew of the dangers of drinking and driving prior to the fatal collision.

That Carlo Adrian Navarro, 23, caused the deaths of Joseph Awaida, 30, his wife Raihan Dakhil, 32, and their son Omar Awaida, 3, after drinking and driving was not disputed during his Los Angeles County Superior Court trial.

Instead, attorneys during closing arguments Friday in a Long Beach courtroom argued over whether Navarro committed second-degree murder under an “implied malice” legal theory that he knew that driving drunk was dangerous to human life but did it anyway, as argued by the prosecution, or whether it constituted lesser counts of vehicular manslaughter, as the defense countered.

The deaths of Joseph Awaida — who worked at his father’s auto shop — and Dakhil — a social worker — along with their young son drew a massive outpouring of grief from the community, with a memorial for the family drawing more than 400 people.

Navarro told police that shortly before the crash he obtained a bottle of Jack Daniels on credit from Green Diamond Liquor, drank several shots of the alcohol, then got into his black Toyota Sequoia to head to a park to drink with friends.

Awaida and Dakhil were walking home at the time from a relative’s house with their son, who was wearing a lizard costume.

Prosecutors described Navarro traveling at “freeway speeds” twice the legal limit through a residential neighborhood on a busy Halloween night, blowing through two stop signs and then after failing to negotiate a curve along Country Club Drive near Bixby Road going over a curb and onto a sidewalk before striking the three family members from behind.

Bystanders tried to help the parents, who ended up in the roadway, but were unable to reach Omar, who wound up underneath a car that was parked on the opposite side of the street. Several witnesses described Navarro as slurring his words and appearing inebriated.

Talking to police after the crash, Navarro was recorded saying “I was drunk driving and I realized I had hit someone.” Officers later estimated that Navarro had around a .16 percent blood alcohol level, double the legal limit for driving.

Prosecutor Karen Brako noted that several months earlier, an apparently drunken Navarro was found by police sleeping in his SUV parked in an alley. He later told police that he chose to sleep in his vehicle that night because “I knew that I was too drunk to drive,” the prosecutor added.

Citing Navarro’s comments to officers after the fatal crash, the prosecutor told jurors during her closing arguments on Friday morning that Navarro knew, but ignored, the potentially deadly dangers of driving drunk.

“Why did he ignore it?” Brako said. “Because it was Halloween, he was with his buddies and he was having a good time.”

Navarro’s attorney, Bryan Schroeder, acknowledged that jurors could find Navarro guilty of vehicular manslaughter. But the defense attorney noted that Navarro immediately took responsibility for the crash, sitting on a curb and waiting for police to arrive.

The defense attorney argued that Navarro didn’t understand the potential consequences of his actions. During his closing arguments on Friday he played for the jury a clip from Navarro’s interview with law enforcement after the crash in which he told them that “I really didn’t think about hitting someone” when he decided to drive that night.

“Twenty-year-olds don’t think like that,” Schroeder said. “This is a first-time DUI. It has horrible consequences but it is not murder.”

Jurors are expected to continue their deliberations after the holiday weekend on Tuesday morning.


Source: Orange County Register

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