Sentencing delayed for man charged in fatal car accident
The attorney representing the man convicted of killing another driver in a crash near Somerton has filed a motion with the court to reconsider the length of the 21-year prison sentence the judge said he intended to impose on his client.
During what was to be Jose Luis Tapia-Fierro’s sentencing on Wednesday morning in Yuma County Superior Court, attorney Jerry Hernandez, of the Yuma County Public Defender’s Office, asked to be heard regarding the matter.
Hernandez, who represents Tapia-Fierro, explained that he didn’t think his client could be given anything more than the presumptive sentence, which would be for 10 1/2 years in prison, instead of the maximum sentence that was being considered by Superior Court Judge David Haws
While he didn’t go into any details, Hernandez said he cited precedents in similar cases and what he thought were relevant case laws pertaining to the matter in the motion he had filed.
Judge Haws granted Hernandez’s request to continue his client’s sentencing and scheduled a hearing on the motion for July 18.
Tapia-Fierro, who was initially charged with second-degree murder, was found guilty of the lesser included offense of manslaughter after a three-day trial in June. The jury, which deliberated for less than an hour, also found that it was a dangerous-- nature offense, which carries a minimum sentence of seven years and a maximum of 21 years, with the presumptive, or usual, sentence being 10 1/2 years.
Had Tapia-Fierro been found guilty of the seconddegree murder charge, he was facing a minimum of 10 years in prison, with the presumptive sentence being 16 years and the maximum being 22 years.
Jurors came to the decision after hearing two days of testimony that included witnesses, the sheriff deputies who investigated the wreck and an expert on the effects of alcohol on the blood stream.
According to the Yuma County Sheriff’s Office, at 3:10 a.m. on March 31, 2017, deputies received a report of a vehicle collision on County 14th Street and Avenue G, near Somerton.
An initial investigation revealed that a 1998 Ford van was northbound on Avenue G when the vehicle was struck by a 2012 Nissan pickup traveling west on County 14th Street. The Nissan pickup had failed to stop at the posted stop sign on County 14th Street and Avenue G.
The driver of the Ford van was pronounced dead at the scene. The driver of the Nissan, Tapia-Fierro, who deputies said had been drinking before the crash, was transported to Yuma Regional Medical Center for injuries that were not life-threatening and later arrested.
JOSE LUIS TAPIA-FIERRO