Sean Matthew Walker, who crashed into a car and killed California Highway Patrol Officer Kirk Griss of Vacaville and Philippine citizen Jaime Bues Manuel as they stood during a traffic stop on the side of Interstate 80 Westbound in August 2018 in Fairfield, will do minimum 183 days in Solano County Jail.
Judge Tim Kam, after hearing several allegations of the victims’ strikes and speaking at the Walker’s sentencing hearing on Wednesday afternoon, delivered the verdict after a short hiatus in Department 7 proceedings at the Vallejo Justice Building.
The verdict also includes 182 days in the “Alternative Sentencing Program,” a community-based correctional program that allows a defendant, while convicted, to serve a court-ordered sentence in such a program rather than in prison.
Kam also ordered Walker, a 39-year-old man from Rocklin, to pay fines and damages, perform 160 hours of community service, and participate in the CHP-Solano “Start Smart” class, a class dedicated to safe driving, and the CHP Adult Distracted Driver Program. which informs the public about the dangers of distracted driving.
In addition, Walker will not be allowed to use marijuana without a doctor’s permission; will be tested for drugs and alcohol; be required to complete an unspecified counseling program; only drive with a valid license.
Kam also ordered him to report to the county jail four weeks later to begin his time behind bars in Fairfield.
The verdict came after Deputy District Attorney Harun Khan and Walker’s lawyer Guyton Jinkerson agreed to a plea deal on July 13.
Walker pleaded guilty to two counts of manslaughter resulting from reckless or illegal driving, which is not a serious crime, but without gross negligence, and resulted in the death of another person. In such cases, the severity of the crime and the punishment depends on the degree of negligence shown, that is, on whether the driver was intoxicated and on the driver’s conviction. Walker was not intoxicated during the collision, but he suffered from what he believed to be symptoms of a heart attack, at one point used his cell phone to inquire about them, and did not stop while driving on I-80. from Vacaville to Fairfield.
Among the victims ‘statements was one from Griss’ parents, Helen and Sheldon Griss, which Khan read out in court with more than two dozen people in a public gallery, including several members of the Griss family, Manuel’s press secretary, and several CHP officers. , among them the commander of TPP-Solano Captain Steve West.
Griess parents said their son was born in Minnesota and a veteran of the Marine Corps, “which was a special gift to illuminate the room” at the entrance.
“On that day, our hearts were broken,” – continued the statement, and reading, Khan added: “We miss him every day. The pain does not go away. “
Speaking on behalf of the Manuel family, Ricardo Naval, standing at the prosecutor’s desk, said that Manuel’s death left “a void … that cannot be filled.”
Crying and at times struggled to speak as he spoke into the microphone, Nabal said, “It hurts.”
“We forgive you,” – he continued, with a glance at Walker, sitting at the defense table in a light gray suit with a shaved head. “We hope that you will find peace and be able to continue your life without feeling guilty.”
Then Khan read a statement from Nick Walter CHP-Solano, who wrote that a collision August 10, 2018 “could have been prevented.”
Reading the probation officer’s report, Khan noted that cell phone records indicated Walker was looking for “heart attack symptoms” at 8:55 am and the fatal collision occurred five minutes later.
Walker, according to the wording of the report, had a “five minute advantage” to decide to reduce any potential harm to others, and “if he thought about others, he would stop,” but for a long time, in agonizing moments, he continued to drive. ” …
Walker, Khan noted, did not change lanes to enter the slow lane, did not slow down at 70 mph, “and killed two people.”
“He got a warning”, – said Khan, adding that the probation officer said that Walker led the “abnormal driving practice.”
Kam asked Khan what he thought was the appropriate punishment for Walker, and Khan asked for a year and a half in prison plus 100 hours of community service, including a requirement to speak to community groups, including teenagers, about “the consequences of his poverty. choice. “
Immediately thereafter, the judge asked Walker if he wished to make a statement. He stood up, cleared his throat, looked at the folded white sheet of paper and said: “It breaks my heart” and “I’m sorry.”
After asking Jinkerson to make a statement about the verdict, the San Jose attorney said, “My client was sorry to die,” and described Walker as “a close-knit member of society.”
Ginkerson echoed Walker’s call to speak to community groups and said the conditional jail sentence was appropriate, while also noting that neither alcohol nor marijuana were factors in the confrontation.
“It was negligence,” Jinkerson said. “He’s clearly to blame.”
Returning after a 20-minute hiatus before the terms of the sentence were announced, Kam called the case “incredibly tragic” and basically agreed with the defense’s assertion during the preliminary hearing that the clash was due to “unusual factors.”
Walker’s verdict, the judge added, is “balancing.”
Following the sentencing, and as the courtroom cleared and members of the public entered the Justice Building corridor, Captain West, dressed in a black suit, declined to comment in detail on Walker’s sentence.
“I have nothing to say that will bring Kirk Griss back,” he said. “It’s tragic for everyone.”
The sentencing hearing took place exactly three months before the day the jury was required to fill out the trial questionnaires, and Walker and his attorneys agreed to find him guilty on two counts of the crime of negligence using a car.
If the lawsuit continued, the outcome would likely depend on whether Walker was using his cell phone at the time before and after the fatal collision, in addition to questions about Walker’s statement of sudden medical fears while driving, possibly on his families. medical history and the fact that a two-valve heart monitor was implanted in his chest a few weeks after he turned and bumped into Grissa and Manuel, who were standing on the side of the road near the Manuel Campos Boulevard exit from I-80 Westbound in Fairfield …
Jinkerson was not contacted for comment during the press conference, but in an earlier interview following the plea deal, he said: “I never believed my client was guilty of gross negligence in a car murder. There was strong evidence that he had a medical case that resulted in him losing consciousness while driving. However, since he did not stop when he first became concerned about his health and drove for another five minutes, the jury could conclude that he was negligent. “
He described Khan as “a tool to help resolve this issue.”
“I provided him with a significant amount of medical evidence that allowed him to reevaluate the situation, and we were able to come to a solution that, I believe, suits everyone affected by the tragic events,” added Jinkerson.
In a press release sent after the plea deal, Solano County District Attorney Krishna Abrams said the prosecution initially believed Walker had used his cell phone during the collision, but subsequent forensic examinations showed that this was not the case.
In addition, it was later found that Walker “also suffered from a medical condition that resulted in a sudden, temporary loss of blood flow to the brain, often leading to loss of consciousness,” she added in a prepared statement.
Abrams also noted that Walker was not under the influence of legal or illegal drugs or alcohol at the time.
Before agreeing to a plea deal, DA officials met with CHP district headquarters, CHP investigators, the Grissy family and a Manuel family representative, she said, adding, “Upon completion of these meetings, all parties agreed to the resolution,” as was said.
“Any loss of life in our community is a tragedy,” Abrams said. “It’s true whether it’s a police officer or a citizen attending a normal road stop.”
Walker was charged with two cases of gross manslaughter. Khan argued that the defendant was driving a large Chevrolet pickup truck at high speed at about 9 a.m. on August 10, when he turned onto the western shoulder near the Fairfield boulevard exit and collided with 46-year-old Griss from Fairfield. Vacaville and 49-year-old Manuel, a Vallejo resident who worked as a nurse.
Griss and Manuel were taken to NorthBay Medical Center in Fairfield, where they later died. Walker was taken to Kaiser Permanente Vacaville Medical Center, where he was treated and then released.
Court records show Walker was arrested on August 16, five days after the vehicle he was driving hit Grissa, a motorcycle officer, and Manuel during a traffic stop.
Eventually, Walker posted a $ 90,000 bond and left the Solano County Jail. He pleaded not guilty to the charges.
During his closing argument at the preliminary hearing, Khan argued that there was enough evidence to deter Walker on the charges, stating that the defendant’s driving style was indicative of “gross negligence.”
In his closing remarks, Jinkerson challenged Khan’s claim that speed was a factor.
“I don’t think the issue is speed,” he objected. “Going 75, 65 or 50 – the result would be the same. The problem is what caused this (fatal collision). “
Because both parties agreed to a plea deal, Walker avoided the maximum penalty – on one count only – of a state jail sentence of two to six years, plus a fine of up to $ 10,000.