District Attorney's Son Avoids Harsh Prison Sentence for Three Homicides (Diana Gomez, Larry Morse II, Judge Kenneth Gnoss)
What is the likely prison sentence a California drunk driver who killed three people would receive? Here are the facts:
Dylan Morse had a blood-alcohol level of at least 0.15 percent, nearly twice the legal limit for an adult, and had marijuana in his system when he ran a red light at Stony Point Road and Highway 116, where he struck Ruiz’s car [killing three people].
What if the drunk driver who killed three people is the son of Larry Morse II, the Merced County district attorney? What if I told you that when Larry Morse prosecuted a case involving a drunk driver, the drunk driver received 11 years in prison?
Here is what happens when the D.A. is your father rather than your prosecutor:
Michael Ruiz of Calistoga realizes that nothing will bring back his son, Alex, who was 22 when he died in a Sonoma County car wreck on Valentine’s Day.
But he was surprised and saddened by a Sonoma County judge’s Dec. 2 decision to dramatically reduce the prison sentence of the teen who was convicted of vehicular manslaughter in the case.
Dylan Morse, 18 at the time of the crash, was originally sentenced to more than 12 years in prison after pleading guilty in the wreck near Cotati. Last week, his sentence was reduced to three years and four months.
That's about one-year-and-change - per body. When Morse is released from prison, he'll be of legal drinking age. His three victims will be...dead.
Prosecutors are shocked. Which they should be. I scream at my friends: Don't drink-and-drive in California. Despite having a reputation as a liberal state, California is very hard on drinking-and-driving. I cannot imagine anyone else receiving only one-year-and-change per body.
Oh, wait...Did I say that the prosecutors are shocked? Nope. They are going to do the D.A. a favor:
Diana Gomez said prosecutors will not seek a different outcome.
“We really can’t appeal (the resentencing unless) there was an abuse of discretion,” Gomez said, referring to the standard for judicial misconduct. “Whether we like the sentence or not, we do not see that he abused his discretion.”
Oh, yes, they most certainly can appeal the sentence. Abuse of discretion is the standard of review that the California Court of Appeals will apply to an appeal of the sentence. One need not prove judicial misconduct to establish that a judge abused his discretion. One must instead show that the judge make an unreasonable error of fact or law. If the judge gave the teen an unreasonably lenient sentence (which one could prove by comparing prison sentences given in other DUI/homicide cases), then the judge might have abused his discretion.
The lax prison sentence thus, most certainly, raises an issue for appeal. Assistant District Attorney Diana Gomez is lying. She isn't going to appeal the sentence as a favor to a powerful person.