DUI driver convicted of manslaughter in fatal Nipomo crash

December 15, 2020

Edgar Saul Rojas Morales

By JOSH FRIEDMAN

A Santa Maria man who drove the wrong way while intoxicated, causing a crash in Nipomo that killed an 82-year-old woman, managed to evade a second-degree murder conviction after a single juror held out from finding him guilty on Monday.

The San Luis Obispo jury split 11-1 in favor of convicting Edgar Saul Rojas Morales, 25, of second-degree murder. The jury did, however, convict Morales of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, driving under the influence of alcohol causing injury and driving on a suspended license.

Morales faces a possible sentence of 15 years to life in prison, because of prior convictions.

At about 10:30 p.m. on Dec. 1, 2018, Morales was driving northbound in the southbound lane of Thompson Road when he crashed head-on into a BMW driven by Maricela Marquez, 55. The crash killed Maria Medina, who was a passenger in Marquez’s car. Morales suffered major injuries in the crash, while Marquez emerged with minor injuries.

Morales had a blood alcohol level of .157 percent, nearly twice the legal limit. When questioned by officers, Morales indicated he felt clumsy and should not have been driving that evening, according to the San Luis Obispo County District Attorney’s office.

Prosecutors were allowed to charge Morales with second-degree murder because he was previously convicted of DUI. A state law requires DUI offenders to agree that if they drive under the influence again and a person dies as a result of it, they may face a second-degree murder charge.

When accounting for prior DUI convictions in 2014 and 2017, as well as a prior driving on a suspended license conviction, Morales now faces a possible sentence of 15 years to life in prison. He would have faced 15 years to life in prison solely for second-degree murder had the jury found him guilty on that count.

“The tragic and completely avoidable death of Ms. Medina is a sobering reminder that driving under the influence of alcohol is deadly, dangerous and will not be tolerated in San Luis Obispo County,” District Attorney Dan Dow said in a statement. “We are thankful for the difficult work carried out by this jury, particularly in light of the Covid-19 safety precautions and we respect the fact that they were unable to reach a verdict on the charge of murder.”

Morales is scheduled for sentencing Dec. 29.


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Medina805

once again another pos getting off to easy. when will the courts start making an example of these killers and put them away for life? 1st dui slap in the hand, 2nd dui slap in the hand and if you do it again and someone dies you could be charged with murder. 3rd dui kills my grandmother and admits he shouldnt have been driving and gets manslaughter. 1 juror was on ur side so count your blessings


scott_giles

Ya that’s really tragic for all parties involved.


I think and I’m going out on a limb that some people don’t use drugs and then go over board with alcohol. I don’t think it’s as simple as addiction theory purports it to be alcoholism or drug addiction it is a theory.


Some of it could come from middle class decay. Some people never get more than one opportunity to start a family or some may never get a chance to start a happy family.


A happy husband probably stays home with his happy wife.


It’s more complicated than people make it out to be drugs and drinking and its also more simple.


A wise woman builds her house up a foolish woman tears hers down.


Middle class decay is it happening?


sansimeonsam1

scott…none of your comments are relevant. i feel dumber for having read them


Rambunctious

If you are going to drink….don’t drive!…its as simple as it can be…we have buses Uber cabs and volunteers at the ready to pick you up and take you home…you can walk call a friend or family member….just don’t get behind the wheel…even if you don’t feel drunk…if you are over the legal limit and someone hits you and dies you go to prison…stop drinking and driving…its not worth it…


womanwhohasbeenthere

Let’s see – his first DUI conviction in 2014 means he wasn’t even 21 at that time; then he does it again, another DUI three years later in 2017, and also drove on a suspended license. Did he ever even do any time for that? The third time’s a charm – a year later, drunk as a skunk, he hit the home run and killed an 82 year-old woman, no doubt someone’s grandmother. Now, two years later, he is finally being brought to trial? Where has he been the past two years – out on bail? Free because of coronavirus? Or if he was jailed, will these two years in jail be considered part of the 15 year sentence, and with good behavior and time served he’ll be out in eight? Where is the justice for all these victims? The “three strikes” law was written for cases like this – too bad it is no longer in effect.


Robert1

Calif needs to adopt this law, far too often in criminal cases the def gets off because of some bone head on the jury. This guy should get life in prison.

Last November, Louisiana voters approved a state constitutional amendment that requires the unanimous agreement of jurors to convict individuals charged with felonies, rather than the previous requirement of at least 10 of 12 jurors. The new rule took effect Jan.


slocorruptionhater

Wait, what am I missing? Louisiana’s law mirrors California now regarding unanimous juries.