Defense goes on offense in alleged street racing trial

POMONA — A detective testified Wednesday he forgot to have a blood sample of a defendant in a alleged fatal El Monte street racing crash case tested for alcohol as defense lawyers sought to poke holes in the prosecution’s case.
El Monte residents Robert Canizalez, 20, and Martin Morones, 22, are each charged with three counts of murder in connection with the Oct. 8, 2007 crash.
Dora Groce, 41, and her children, Robert, 8, and Catherine, 4, were killed in the fiery crash after Canizalez and Morones allegedly crashed into their Nissan Altima while racing against each other on Parkway Drive at Elliot Avenue.
The prosecution rested its case Wednesday, and the defense attorneys called their witnesses, which included investigators from the El Monte Police Department.
Defense attorneys Gary Meastas, who represents Canizalez, and Henry Bastien, who represents Morones, attempted to cast doubt on the testimony of other witnesses and the credibility of law enforcement.
When asked why blood samples taken from Canizalez shortly after the crash had not been tested for alcohol content, El Monte police Detective Rick George responded, “I forgot.”
The case is complex, he said, and that piece of investigative work was simply overlooked. Neither defendant has been charged with drunken driving.
During prosecution cross-examination, El Monte police Traffic Investigator Darrell Carter testified the crash appeared to have been caused by street racing.
“It was my opinion at the time,” he said, “that the preliminary collision factor was racing,” he said.
The officials cause of the crash was ultimately determined to be running a stop sign, with a secondary factor of excessive speed, which Carter said was related to racing.
Though witness Victor Uruena, 18, testified last week that he saw Canizalez get out of his crashed Mustang and run away following the crash, Carter told the court Wednesday that Uruena initially told him he could not identify the driver of the Mustang immediately following the crash.
The defense attorneys also pointed out that witnesses who testified about details such as Canizalez fleeing the scene, denying being the driver of the Mustang and threatening a witness did not mention any of those things to police during initial interviews following the crash.
Carter said the crash crash scene was bustling with activity following the crash.
“I don’t know if chaotic’s the word, but it was a very stressful situation,” he said.
Both the defendants and the Grove family lived in the same mobile home park only a block from the crash scene.
The trial will continue Thursday, court officials said, when closing arguments are expected.

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