SAN DIEGO – A judge declared a mistrial Friday on the two most serious charges against a man who was driving drunk when he fatally injured a Lyft driver, who was outside his car helping a sick passenger.
Steven Quintero, 26, was charged with murder, gross vehicular manslaughter and four other felonies related to the 2016 fatal collision. Prosecutors said Quintero was driving drunk when he hit and killed Henry Reyes of Escondido on October 1, 2016.
Jurors found Quintero guilty of DUI causing injury, DUI, hit and run with death and driving on a suspended license.They could not reach a unanimous verdict, however, on the two most serious charges of gross vehicular manslaughter and murder.
“The jury in this case found guilty verdicts on driving under the influence causing injury, driving with .08 causing injury, but they hung on the first count which was murder and the second count which was gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated. They also found guilty of driving on a suspended license as well as hit and run causing death,” said Deputy District Attorney Cally Bright.
Reyes, a 41-year-old Lyft driver and aspiring dentist, had pulled over on the shoulder of the eastbound lanes of state Route 94 because one of his three passengers was sick.
Prosecutors say Quintero slammed into the car from behind and drove off.
The defense attorney argued Quintero should not be charged with murder, adding that Quintero he has a severe learning disability. She said the negligent conduct of driving under the influence killed Reyes, but it was not technically murder.
The prosecutor said Quintero drove drunk despite having a prior DUI offense, showing no regard for human life.
“With what the jury came back with today I think he’d be facing around 10 or 11 years in prison. With obviously the overall maximum with all of the charges it’s closer to 15 to life, plus 15 so there is quite a significant difference,” said the Deputy District Attorney.
The assistant district attorney prosecuting the case said she will decide whether to ask for a new trial on the two counts on which the jury deadlocked by May 4.
“Obviously in a case like this with someone that we’re dealing with has a prior dui and there is the allegation of the prior DUI which the jury did find true, that is one of those things that elevates the case from a gross vehicular manslaughter to a murder as well as the actions that night of leaving the scene of the crime. I think this is something that within our office we’ll take a look at to determine whether or not we think there’s anything that could’ve been done differently or basically evaluation of the case to determine whether or not we should try the case again,” said Deputy District Attorney Cally Bright.