UPDATE: Kenneth John McNair, 22, of Downey, was sentenced today to 11 years in state prison in connection with the death-by-drunken-driving conviction described below. During sentencing, Reynaldo Pacheco, father of the victim, tearfully described the devastation his family is suffering, saying his son was a shining star in the family, a role model to his siblings, and had grown into a better man than they could have hoped. He asked why his son, who was doing everything right, had to die when the man who was doing everything wrong was still alive.
How's this for a defense tactic? "Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I cannot be held responsible for the crash that burned to death a 20-year-old college student and for fleeing the scene because I was so drunk I don't remember any of it."
That was essentially what Miller told jurors, according to the Orange County District Attorney's Office.
Let's just say the Superior Court jury in Santa Ana did not buy that argument. McNair was found guilty in December of one felony count of vehicular manslaughter by unlawful act with gross negligence while intoxicated and one misdemeanor count of driving without a valid license with a sentencing enhancement for fleeing the scene of a crime.
Here is the OCDA's account:
On the evening of Nov. 15, 2008, McNair consumed alcoholic beverages with a friend at his home in Downey and then took a cab to Downey Brewing Company. The defendant consumed more alcoholic drinks at the bar before taking a cab home. The defendant, who has never been issued a California driver's license, drove to Sharkeez in Huntington Beach from his home. Upon arriving at the bar, the defendant consumed several more alcoholic beverages before getting into the driver's seat of his Honda sedan with his friend, who was in the passenger seat, and driving away.
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At approximately 1:30 a.m., McNair was driving northbound on Goldenwest Street at speeds between 75 and 80 mph in a 45 mph zone. At the intersection of Goldenwest Street and Edinger Avenue, the defendant crashed into the back of victim Jose Pacheco's Ford Mustang and side-swiped another vehicle, which were both stopped at a red light. The force of the impact caused by McNair pushed the victim's car across the intersection, where it came to a stop and exploded in flames. The defendant fled the scene on foot after crashing head-on into a semi-trailer truck on the other side of the intersection. Several witnesses called 9-1-1.
McNair was scooped up by Huntington Beach police about a block from the accident scene. His eyes were bloodshot and watery, his speech was slurred and he could barely stand upright. Court testimony showed that almost two hours after the crash, McNair's blood alcohol level was .25 percent, or more than three times the legal limit.
Pacheco, a 20-year-old college student at Cal State Long Beach, could not be pulled out of the car in time by citizens and police officers to save him from the flames that ultimately consumed him.
According to prosecutors, McNair testified at trial that he had no memory of the crash or leaving the scene. "His defense argued that the defendant should not be held responsible for fleeing because his intoxication made him unaware that he had hurt someone," reads the OCDA statement.