Conflicting Stories Told in Manslaughter Trial

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The site of the September 2010 crash was the 200 block of South Tustin in Orange. (Google photo, January 2011)

CITY NEWS SERVICE

SANTA ANA — A San Bernardino man had a blood-alcohol level nearly three times the legal limit when his pickup truck slammed into a car in Orange two years ago, killing a 60-year-old woman and injuring her son, a prosecutor said Tuesday, but a defense attorney said no driver could have avoided the collision.

Edward Stanley Butler is charged with felony vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, driving under the influence causing bodily injury and driving with a blood-alcohol level of .08 percent or more causing bodily injury, with a sentencing enhancement for causing great bodily injury.

Butler, 71, was driving southbound in the 200 block of south Tustin Street just after 5 p.m. on Sept. 8, 2010, when his Nissan pickup truck crashed into an Oldsmobile Alero driven by Tamiko Kaminaga, Deputy District Attorney Alison Gyves said.

Kaminaga was making a left turn out of a Salvation Army thrift shop parking lot, Gyves said.

“He never braked, he never slowed down, never swerved,” Gyves told jurors in her opening statement. “He hit the broadside of the car at approximately 40 mph without slowing down.”

Kaminaga was pronounced dead about 30 minutes after the collision, and her then-17-year-old son, Jorge Maresch, suffered a broken nose and cuts to his face, Gyves said.

Butler, who had an open bottle of vodka in the truck, had a blood-alcohol level of .22 percent, nearly three times the legal limit, when his blood was drawn at the hospital 90 minutes following the collision, Gyves said.

A forensic scientist is expected to testify that Butler was too drunk to react in time to avoid the collision, Gyves said.

“Had the defendant been paying attention,” Gyves said, “He would have been able to avoid this collision. This death never would have happened.”

Assistant Public Defender Michelle Riedel told jurors that while she concedes Butler was guilty of driving drunk, no one could have avoided the collision.

A defense expert will testify that even ‘perfectly sober people” have similar collisions “all the time,” Riedel said.

Kaminaga “pulled right in front of him,” Riedel said, telling the jury that her client “had no time to avoid the collision. He wasn’t responsible for the accident.”

Another motorist, Darlene Cordi, testified she saw Kaminaga edging her car into traffic.

“I said to myself, ‘Oh dear, lady, be careful,”’ Cordi testified.

Cordi said she passed Kaminaga and saw the collision in her rear-view mirror while idled at a traffic light at Palmyra Avenue.

Officer Charles Lange, the first officer on the scene, testified that he kept talking to Maresch to keep him awake until paramedics arrived. Lange also testified that Butler appeared drunk and had difficulty keeping his balance.

Lange testified he twice told Butler not to get back in his truck.

Butler could face up to seven years and eight months in prison if convicted.

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