Murder or not? Fi­nal ar­gu­ments made in Aden­hart case

Lawyers wrap up in trial over the death of the An­gels pitcher and two oth­ers.

Los Angeles Times - - California - Paloma Esquivel paloma.esquivel @latimes.com

The trial of An­drew Thomas Gallo in the death of An­gels pitcher Nick Aden­hart and two friends hinges on a sim­ple ques­tion: Did he com­mit murder?

The way de­fense at­tor­ney Jac­que­line Good­man sees it, Gallo, 23, never in­tended to kill any­one.

Good­man ar­gued dur­ing clos­ing ar­gu­ments Thurs­day that Gallo didn’t even plan on driv­ing the night he is ac­cused of get­ting into his par­ents’ SUV af­ter a night of heavy drink­ing, then run­ning a red light and col­lid­ing with an­other ve­hi­cle. Aden­hart, 22; Court­ney Ste­wart, 20; and Henry Pearson, 25, were killed. Jon Wil­hite, 24, of Man­hat­tan Beach sur­vived but re­ceived ma­jor in­juries. Gallo’s step­brother, Ray­mond Rivera, broke his nose and wrist.

At the time of the crash, Gallo was 22, a re­cov­er­ing al­co­holic who had tried twice be­fore to over­come his ad­dic­tion, Good­man said. He al­ways made sure he had a des­ig­nated driver, and in the hours be­fore the crash it was Rivera, his des­ig­nated driver, who pushed him to drink, she said.

When the crash hap­pened, Good­man ar­gued, Gallo and Rivera were so in­tox­i­cated that it is pos­si­ble Rivera was ac­tu­ally the driver. She con­ceded that it was un­likely and said Gallo didn’t want her to ar­gue the point.

But in the end, she said, even if Gallo was driv­ing, he is not what peo­ple have in mind when they think of a mur­derer. He is a young man with bad judg­ment caught in a tragic sit­u­a­tion.

“Use your com­mon sense,” Good­man said. “Is it murder?”

For pros­e­cu­tors, the an­swer is clear. Gallo had been con­victed of driv­ing un­der the in­flu­ence three years be­fore the April 9, 2009, crash and was still on pro­ba­tion. He had been warned of the dangers of drink­ing and driv­ing by a court, by friends and by fam­ily.

Orange County Deputy Dist. Atty. Su­san Price asked the jury to con­vict Gallo of three counts of sec­ond-de­gree murder, felony DUI and felony hit and run. If con­victed on all counts, he faces 55 years to life in prison.

When Gallo was tested a cou­ple of hours af­ter the crash, he had a blood-al­co­hol level of 0.19%, more than twice the le­gal limit for driv­ing. Dur­ing the trial, Price showed video of Gallo and his step­brother drink­ing heav­ily in a West Cov­ina bikini bar be­fore the crash.

Hours later, Aden­hart, who had just made his first start of the sea­son for the An­gels and pitched six score­less in­nings; Ste­wart, a for­mer cheer­leader at Cal State Fuller­ton; and Pearson, a 25-year-old law school stu­dent who was build­ing a sports man­age­ment busi­ness, were dead.

“Three peo­ple are dead,” said Price, her voice ris­ing an­grily to fill the court­room, where the fam­i­lies of three of the vic­tims have sat since the be­gin­ning of the trial. “Are we sup­posed to feel sorry for him in that sit­u­a­tion?

“Use your com­mon sense,” Price said. “The de­fen­dant car­ries the en­tire bur­den for this crime.... Their death lies squarely at his feet.”

Ju­rors be­gan de­lib­er­at­ing the case Thurs­day af­ter­noon.

DE­FEN­DANT: An­drew Gallo is charged with sec­ond-de­gree murder.

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