Local News

Tuesday, Oct 30 2012 08:03 PM

Defendant pleads not guilty to murder, other charges in connection with horrific crash

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    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    Martin Juarez in court in October 2012 on DUI charges causing the death of Breana Webb during a vehicle accident in which Juarez was allegedly driving the wrong way.

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    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    Martin Juarez was in court Oct. 30, 2012 on charges including second-degree murder in the death of Breana Webb. On Monday, Juarez pleaded guilty to gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, and charges including second-degree murder — which carries a sentence of 15 years to life — were dismissed.

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    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    Attorney Bill Slocumb speaks to the news media concerning his client Martin Juarez's DUI case.

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BY JASON KOTOWSKI Californian staff writer jkotowski@bakersfield.com

The suspected drunken driver in a horrific early morning crash that killed one teen and injured four others pleaded not guilty to charges including second-degree murder Tuesday afternoon.

Martin William Juarez, 33, also waived his right to a speedy trial and his next court hearing has been set for Jan. 8. Juarez's attorney, Bill Slocumb, said the extra time is necessary to investigate the crash and find out what happened Monday morning.

Slocumb noted that Juarez's blood work hasn't come back yet so it's unknown if in fact he was driving under the influence or if some other factor, possibly a hypoglycemic event, led to Juarez driving the wrong way on Coffee Road just before the crash.

He said Juarez's 2005 DUI conviction has already played a role in this case because he's been charged with murder rather than DUI causing injury or death, and the penalties he faces are far more severe than would be without the DUI conviction on his record.

Speaking generally of people who drive under the influence, Slocumb said “no one intends these kinds of consequences.”

In California, a person can be charged with second-degree murder if they have previously been convicted of a DUI and are later arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence in a crash that kills someone.

Family of Juarez declined to comment following his arraignment, and he declined a jailhouse interview.

Breana Webb, 18, was killed in the 3:47 a.m. crash after Juarez struck her vehicle while he was driving south in the northbound lanes of Coffee Road near Stockdale Highway, Bakersfield police reported. Four other teens in Webb's car suffered minor to moderate injuries.

In addition to the 2005 DUI, Juarez has a series of convictions on his criminal record, many regarding his driving, according to Kern County Superior Court records. But there's also a conviction in 1997 after he pleaded guilty to spousal abuse.

In 2005, shortly after his DUI conviction, Juarez pleaded guilty to driving while his license was suspended for DUI, court records say. In 2002 he pleaded no contest to manufacturing a dangerous weapon, and he pleaded no contest to dissuading a victim/witness in 2009 and a battery charge was dismissed.

Also in 2009, Juarez pleaded no contest to driving without a license, court records say.

Bail for Juarez has been set at $1,225,000.

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