State District Judge Michael Vigil on Monday afternoon tossed (again) the vehicular homicide case against Alfred Lovato, a former state cop who was a passenger in a car that struck and killed pedestrian William Tenorio in 2008.
Vigil, some may remember, tossed this case before saying there was no legal grounds to charge the passenger with the same charge as former attorney Carlos Fierro was charged with (Fierro was convicted of vehicular homicide in a jury trial in 2009 and is currently serving a prison sentence in Los Lunas).
The Court of Appeals, basically, sent the case back to Vigil’s court saying a passenger could, in fact, be charged with vehicular homicide under certain circumstances. That’s a pretty huge ruling and one that Assistant District Attorney Donna Bevacqua-Young felt was worthy of using this case as a good test run for.
The problem is I talked to a dozen or so people familiar with the case over the past month or so and didn’t hear one — not one — other than Bevacqua-Young think this case was even remotely close to the proper test case for charging a passenger with vehicular homicide.
The back and forth grandstanding and showboating between her and defense attorney Sam Bregman over the past several months has been entertaining, but I’m afraid it’s been at the expense of taxpayers as it seemed apparent to most this case didn’t have the legal legs to stand on as charged. Obviously the AGs Office disagreed.
Monday, after the state rested its case, Bregman asked the judge for a directed verdict and Vigil agreed there is no reason to ask the jury to even consider the vehicular homicide charge as there was not nearly enough evidence in his mind to even waste their time with such deliberations. It is a legal tactic often asked for at trial for by defense attorneys after the state rests its case, but one I don’t see a judge go with often, instead usually letting the jurors hearing the evidence make the decision on guilt.
Lovato still must stand trial for another day (the case will wrap up on Tuesday Bregman says) as he still faces a fourth-degree felony charge of leaving the scene of an accident (up to 18 months in prison).
Here are some past stories in the Lovato case:
- (Monday) Judge dismisses vehicular homicide charge against former state cop
- (May 2011) Court rejects ex-cop’s appeal in vehicular homicide trial
- (March 2011) Ex-state cop faces reinstated criminal charges
- (December 2009) Lovato pleads not guilty in pedestrian death