Closing arguments to begin in trial over death of Angels pitcher in DUI crash

By Gillian Flaccus, AP
Thursday, September 23, 2010

Trial over Angels pitcher’s death nears end

SANTA ANA, Calif. — A man charged with murder in a drunken-driving collision that killed rookie Los Angeles Angels pitcher Nick Adenhart and two other people didn’t care about anyone but himself when he decided to drink that day, a prosecutor said Thursday.

Defendant Andrew Gallo “made the decision to get intoxicated beyond the point of any reason,” Deputy District Attorney Susan Price told jurors in her closing argument.

Prosecutors said Gallo’s blood-alcohol level was nearly three times the legal limit at the time of the crash.

Gallo, 23, has pleaded not guilty to three counts of second-degree murder in the deaths of Adenhart and his two friends, 20-year-old Courtney Stewart and 25-year-old Henry Pearson.

Gallo and his stepbrother had been drinking beer and shots for hours at three bars before Gallo got behind the wheel and sped through a red light at 65 mph, T-boning the other car in a Fullerton intersection, prosecutors said.

Stewart, who was driving the other car, and Pearson were killed instantly. Adenhart, 22, died in surgery just hours after pitching six scoreless innings in his Angels season debut.

Another passenger, Jon Wilhite, survived but has needed extensive rehabilitation because the impact separated his spine from his skull.

Gallo was arrested two miles from the crash walking against traffic on the shoulder of a freeway.

Gallo was charged with murder — and not the lesser offense of manslaughter — because he had a previous DUI conviction, was driving on a suspended license and had signed court documents in 2006 saying he understood that if he drove while intoxicated and killed someone he could be charged with murder.

The decision was a calculated risk for the district attorney’s office because a murder conviction requires a higher burden of proof and jurors will not have the option of convicting Gallo of manslaughter.

To win a murder conviction, prosecutors must show Gallo acted with implied malice: intentionally drove drunk; acted with a conscious disregard for human life; and knew from his personal experience that he could kill someone.

Gallo’s defense attorney Jacqueline Goodman has said he did not intend to kill anyone and did not act with malice.

Defense witnesses testified during the two-week trial that Gallo believed his stepbrother was his designated driver, and that Gallo only took the wheel because his stepbrother got too drunk and asked him to drive.

Goodman has also presented expert witnesses who testified that people in alcohol-induced blackouts, as Gallo was, lose their sense of judgment of right and wrong.

Gallo did not take the stand in his own defense, but jurors watched a videotaped police interview with him taken shortly after the collision.

In it, Gallo said he blacked out during the night of drinking, didn’t remember driving and was surprised he was behind the wheel because he had a suspended license and never drove.

Gallo appeared shocked and sobbed after being told he had killed three people.

He has also pleaded not guilty to a felony count of fleeing the scene of a traffic collision involving death or permanent injury, and two other felonies involving driving under the influence.

He could face more than 50 years to life in prison if convicted on all charges.

will not be displayed