SAN DIEGO — A drunken driver who went the wrong way and crashed head-on into another car in 4S Ranch, killing the other driver, was convicted Wednesday of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated and DUI causing injury.
Jurors deadlocked on a second-degree murder count against Alexandria Bayne, but will return Thursday to resume deliberations in hopes of reaching a consensus. The 37-year-old defendant was charged with murder due to two previous DUI convictions from 2005 and 2008.
The panel deliberated two days before returning the vehicular manslaughter and DUI verdicts, and acquitted Bayne of four child endangerment counts involving allegations that she drove drunk earlier in the day while her children were riding in her minivan.
On Thursday, the jury will hear a read-back of closing arguments and receive clarifications on the legal definitions of certain terms such as “intentionally” and “deliberately,” which were cited as a source of contention in jury notes submitted to San Diego County Superior Court Judge Robert F. O’Neill.
Sarita Shakya, a 38-year-old Scripps Mercy Hospital nurse, was heading home from work the afternoon of Dec. 17, 2016, on Camino Del Norte when her car was struck head-on by the defendant’s vehicle.
Deputy District Attorney Cally Bright told jurors in her opening statement that Bayne had been drinking alcoholic beverages throughout the day, starting that morning. The defendant and her attorney conceded she’d been drinking but was not drunk when she was behind the wheel. Though she testified that she had eight drinks throughout that day, she told the jury she simply made a mistake when she turned into opposing traffic lanes on Camino Del Norte.
Bayne’s attorney, Michelle Hunsaker, contended that Bayne made that mistake because she was distracted by family issues, as well as her cell phone.
Prosecutors said her blood alcohol content was measured at between .32 and .33% — the legal limit is .08% — after the crash.
Hunsaker disputed that testing result, saying Bayne’s alcohol consumption “just doesn’t line up” with the .33% BAC alleged by the prosecution. She also said Bayne had encountered several people throughout the day and did not appear intoxicated.
“We are not discounting the magnitude of the loss of Ms. Shakya and take full responsibility for that collision. But distraction does not equal murder,” Hunsaker said.
Shakya’s husband, Peter Chen, testified that his wife typically returned home sometime after midnight each night following her shift at the hospital. When she didn’t show up, he called her supervisor, who didn’t know why Shakya might be late.
Hours later, he received the bad news.
“I couldn’t believe what had happened,” Chen said, calling it “the worst day of my life.”