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Friday, Mar 01 2013 11:29 AM

Drunken driver convicted of vehicular manslaughter sentenced to 31 years to life

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    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    Sentencing for DeMarcus Givan was continued Thursday until Friday in the downtown Kern County Superior Court.

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BY JASON KOTOWSKI Californian staff writer jkotowski@bakersfield.com

Tommy Fulce stepped forward into the courtroom and faced the man who killed his wife in a drunken driving crash just over a year ago.

Fulce, 73, told DeMarcus Givan that he's sure Givan's mother is suffering, and he feels for her. He said he prays for her, and he also prays for Givan.

"It's not you as a person we feel animosity to, but your actions," Fulce said of his feelings and those of others who loved Laura Fulce.

Shortly afterward, Kern County Superior Court Judge Thomas S. Clark sentenced Givan to 31 years to life. The sentence was enhanced because of several prior strikes Givan had accrued in the late 1990s.

Givan, 35, glanced toward family and shook his head as the sentence was pronounced.

Prosecutor Esther Schlaerth had asked that Givan be sentenced to more time, but she said she believes the mid-term the judge chose was a just sentence.

Tommy Fulce was also satisfied. He said after sentencing that he took issue with Givan's demeanor during trial, describing him as aloof and unwilling to take responsibility for his actions.

He said he's forgiven Givan.

Fulce said Laura Fulce, 71, was a friend and life partner. They'd been married just a couple of years after Laura moved from Illinois to be with him in Bakersfield.

"Laura will be remembered as a fine, loving and caring Christian woman, and she will be missed deeply," Tommy Fulce said.

Defense attorney Ronald Carter said the sentence was not just, and that the punishment Givan received is typically the kind of sentence handed down for murder. Carter said that the crash, as terrible as it was, was an accident.

"I don't think he got a fair deal," Carter said.

Carter argued against including the prior strikes. He said the upper term with no strikes would have been a 16-year sentence, and even including just one strike would have landed Givan a 26-year sentence, which he said he still would have considered fair.

Clark said during sentencing that he was sympathetic to some of Carter's arguments, and the judge added that the range of sentences he was allowed to consider were "quite harsh."

But Clark also said he didn't have much leeway and had to impose the sentence prescribed by law.

Givan was convicted Jan. 30 of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, DUI causing bodily injury and DUI of .08 blood alcohol content or above with bodily injury.

Prosecutors have said Givan was driving east on White Lane Toward Akers Road at 8 a.m. Jan. 22 of last year and ran a red light, crashing into the vehicle of Tommy and Laura Fulce, who were on their way to buy doughnuts for their church. Both Tommy and Laura Fulce suffered major injuries, and Laura Fulce died.

Givan also suffered major injuries, and a passenger suffered minor injuries. Prosecutors said Givan denied drinking alcohol and said he was not the driver.

Tests showed Givan had a blood alcohol concentration of .17, and there was also marijuana in his system, according to reports. He'd been driving 76 mph, more than 20 miles over the speed limit, at the time of the crash.

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