Prosecutor: Jeffrey Woods was on drugs and texting when he struck and killed Danny Oates; defense attorney: Woods hada seizure.
By ANNIE BURRIS
THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
SANTA ANA – Attorneys gave opening arguments and called their first witnesses Thursday in the trial of a man whose pickup struck and killed a teen bicyclist who was on his way to pick up his middle school schedule in Huntington Beach.
Jeffrey Woods was on two prescription drugs, Vicodin and Xanax, and text messaging when he hit 14-year-old Danny Oates on Aug. 29, 2007, the prosecutor said.
“This type of driving can only be explained by impairment by these particular drugs,” said Deputy District Attorney Susan Price. “Jeffrey Woods chose to voluntarily ingest two substances that impaired his ability to drive. … As a result a 14-year-old boy was killed form multiple blunt injuries.”
Defense attorney Scott Well contended that Woods had a seizure during the accident and could not control the truck when it hit Oates.
“There are three things I would like to talk to you about … seizure, seizure, seizure,” he told the jury. “At this point in time Jeffrey Woods had no clue that he possibly had epilepsy.”
Well said that Woods first had a seizure when he was 14 months old, then again on the day of the car crash, and again in August 2008 when he was with a friend. After the August 2008 incident, Woods was diagnosed with epilepsy, and prescribed anti-seizure medication, he said.
Woods has pleaded not guilty to one felony count of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence while intoxicated and another felony count of driving under the influence and causing bodily injury. He faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in state prison if convicted.
Well said the trial is expected to last about a month and 15 to 20 total witnesses are expected to testify. Price said the trial should be less then a month and there are about 25 total witnesses.
The death of Oates, affectionately known as “Oatie,’’ rocked the Huntington Beach community. Friends and family members remembered him as a friendly boy, involved in soccer, baseball and junior lifeguards.
A small wooden cross marks the intersection of Indianapolis Avenue and Everglades Lane where he was killed.
More than a dozen supporters and the Oates family attended the first day of the trial with Judge Marc Kelly in Orange County Superior Court.
“I’m glad it’s here but also scared that he could get off,” said Paul Oates, Danny Oates’ father.
The prosecutor called several witnesses Thursday.
Brian Flory, a 15-year-old who was riding his bicycle with Oates at the time of the crash, said Oates was his best friend and neighbor. Flory testified that he saw the truck coming out of the corner of his eye and jerked his handle bars to avoid it. He then heard the truck hit Oates.
“(I saw) him flying in the air,” he told the jury. “I found somebody who had a phone and tried to contact my parents … and told them to tell Paul (Danny’s father) that Danny got hit by a car.”
Jennifer Westfall said she was driving in front of Woods when she saw him changing lanes and revving his engine before the crash.
“I was scared for my daughter and I was pretty much panicked … I knew in my gut that something was going to go wrong,” she said. “I saw the truck hit the boy Danny and I watched him fly through the air.”
Sharon Daniel, who was also driving in front of Woods, started to cry when she saw a photo of the crash during her testimony. She was driving with her 20-month-old twin sons the day of the crash.
“Once I heard the impact I looked at my side window and I saw a boy’s body (in the air),” she said. “(The body) seemed to be traveling with my car for awhile until it came to rest on the street.”
The trial is slated to resume Tuesday.