On Dec. 27, 2008--three months after graduating from his second DUI offender program, Angel Herrera Leal of Los Angeles decided to party by himself.
Leal, who was convicted of DUI in 2005 and 2007, watched television at home and began drinking shots of tequila supplemented with lime sucking.
He kept drinking and drinking and drinking, but he only recalls the first five shots before getting in his pickup truck and driving south to Santa Ana at 1:30 a.m. to visit friends.
What Leal did for three hours and 15 minutes isn't exactly known.
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But at 4:45 a.m. other terrified drivers began flashing their headlights at him because for three miles he was traveling northbound at 90 mph in the southbound Interstate 5 lanes near the 17th Street exit.
He was, he recalled in legal filings, "so intoxicated" that he had no idea was he was doing.
His truck slammed into a green Toyota sedan, killing the passenger: 29-year-old Rebecca Moon. A CHP officer found Leal unconscious and a practically empty 750-millilter tequila bottle under the front seat. His blood-alcohol level registered at a whopping .29.
In September 2010, a prosecutor in the Orange County District Attorney's office won a second degree murder conviction against him, Judge James Rogan sentenced him to prison and, in early 2012, a California Court of Appeal sanctioned the conviction as legally righteous.
From inside his prison cell last June, Leal asked federal judges to overturn his case. His complaints included:
~His trial should have been moved out of Orange County because the public was especially angry with DUI offenders following the DUI-related crash that killed Anaheim Angels' pitcher Nick Adenhart.
~He couldn't have formed the necessary intent to kill for a murder conviction because he'd been driving in a alcoholic stupor that prevented him from thinking.
~CHP officers did not follow proper procedures to determine his intoxication level.
~The prosecutor, judge and media were biased against him, his defense lawyer was incompetent and his jury acted irrationally.
~Caltrans contributed to the crash because it designed a highway entrance that allowed a drunk driver to erroneously believe he was traveling in the correct lanes.
~The driver of the car with the fatality caused the crash by "veering" into his truck.
~The victim, who was gruesomely killed on impact, is to blame for her death because she wasn't wearing a seatbelt.
A federal magistrate judge reviewed the complaints and recommend dismissal of all claims after noting that Leal had ignored the teachings of two completed DUI-prevention programs where instructors emphasize that murder charges can result from fatal drunk driving crashes.
An angry Leal responded to the recommendation by arguing that he is being railroaded.
But this month, U.S. District Court Judge Michael W. Fitzgerald accepted the magistrate judge's findings and closed the appeal.
Upshot: Leal, 35, will continue to serve his 15 years to life punishment inside California second oldest penitentiary: Folsom State Prison.
R. Scott Moxley’s award-winning investigative journalism has touched nerves for two decades. An angry congressman threatened to break Moxley’s knee caps. A dirty sheriff promised his critical reporting was irrelevant and then landed in prison. Corporate crooks won’t take his calls. Murderous gangsters mad-dogged him in court. The U.S. House of Representatives debated his work. Pusillanimous cops have left hostile messages using fake names. Federal prosecutors credited his stories for the arrest of a doctor who sold fake medicine to dying patients. And a frantic state legislator literally caught sleeping with lobbyists sprinted down state capital hallways to evade his questions in Sacramento. Moxley has won Journalist of the Year honors at the Los Angeles Press Club and been named Distinguished Journalist of the Year by the LA Society of Professional Journalists.