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.


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