If you thought it was harsh that Adam Harrison Hall was charged with (and later convicted of) murder for a drug-fueled crash in Laguna Niguel that killed a woman walking with a lost dog, a state appellate court panel would disagree with you. The three justices upheld the 30-year-old Placentia man's second-degree murder conviction Tuesday.
Hall, who had two previous DUI convictions, was blazing on methamphetamine, Diazepam, Nordiazepam, Alprazolam, Hydroxyalprazolam, Oxazepam, Temazepam, amphetamine, Morphine, and 11-nor-9-carboxy-delta-9-tetrahyrocannabinol (THCA) as he drove his Ford SUV through a red light at Moulton Parkway and Nueva Vista Drive the morning of Feb. 13, 2011, striking a Toyota SUV. Both vehicles spun out and the Toyota occupants were injured. The Ford continued up the curb, onto the sidewalk and into Mara Lynnes Steves, who was walking with a lost black lab, looking for its owner. The 48-year-old died from her injuries. Veterinarians were able to save the dog, Max.
The suspect was out of custody before the Orange County District Attorney's office (OCDA) filed charges against him. Sheriff's deputies called to take Hall back in found him at a CVS pharmacy, where he was trying to pick up Xanax and Norco with forged prescriptions. Further investigation found he'd called Elizabeth Rene Parker, a friend who worked at a doctor's office, to get the scripts. She later pleaded guilty to second degree burglary and obtaining a prescription by fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation and was sentenced to two years in state prison.
A jury on Feb. 14 found Hall guilty of one felony count of murder, one misdemeanor count of driving under the influence of drugs, two felony counts of obtaining or possessing drugs secured by a forged prescription, and one felony count of forgery of prescription. He was sentenced in April 2013 to 17 years to life in prison.
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Hall's appellate attorney argued that his trial lawyer was ineffective because he did not try to get the drug counts separated from the murder charge. The appeal also claimed there was not enough evidence to prove Hall was the driver who ran a red light and caused the crash.
Fourth District Court of Appeal justices William Bedsworth, Kathleen O'Leary and Eileen Moore disagreed, finding that the evidence of Hall having prescriptions forged would have been admitted in the murder trial regardless of whether those specific charges were also filed. The justices also noted that in the prior DUI convictions, Hall was warned in court that he could face a murder charge if he was responsible for a deadly DUI.
"The case against Hall was much stronger than he gives it credit for in this appeal," states the opinion. "In fact, considering all the evidence, the case was remarkably strong."