One of Deputy Public Defender Ernest Hinman's final questions in the trial of an alleged texting driver involved in a fatal crash brought an immediate objection from the prosecution and a private conversation between both attorneys and the judge.
The question Hinman asked Friday of Bakersfield police Detective Chris Bagby regarded a comment the officer made about defense witness Anthony Stein, a traffic safety researcher who had testified the day before. Stein had given the jury a slew of alternative theories for what could cause a motorist to miss numerous visual cues and crash into the back of a motorcycle.
"Didn't you call Dr. Stein 'the biggest (expletive deleted) waste of money?'" Hinman asked Bagby Friday.
Stein testified his company, La Canada-based Safety Research Associates Inc., was paid $7,250 by the defense for his testimony.
Bagby said those weren't his exact words, but he left no doubt of what he thought of Stein's hypothetical scenarios.
"I said Dr. Stein's testimony was an absolute joke," Bagby said.
Bagby's comment was reportedly made Thursday during a court recess and out of earshot of jurors in the trial of Anna Marie Reynosa. Judge John W. Lua said at the end of Friday's proceedings he considered the issue over.
Closing arguments will begin Tuesday morning.
Reynosa is charged with vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence in the April 14, 2012 crash at Jewetta Avenue and Reina Road in northwest Bakersfield. Prosecutor Esther Schlaerth said Reynosa was texting and speeding when she ran a stop sign where motorcyclist Charla Wilkins was stopped.
Wilkins, 20, died shortly after the crash.
Bagby said Friday Stein has the luxury of throwing out a series of possible alternatives as to how a person could crash in a situation like Reynosa's.
None of Stein's hypotheses can be proven, he said. Stein admitted as much during his testimony.
"We have to work within the confines of the facts," Bagby said of himself and other police investigators.
Bagby has testified numerous times during the 11-day trial.
Many of Stein's hypothetical scenarios can be refuted by the words of the defendant, Bagby said. For example, he said, Reynosa told police she twice saw the motorcycle ahead of her on Jewetta, and she can recall what she was doing and what she saw before the crash.
Those statements, Bagby said, eliminate the possibility she didn't see the motorcycle before impact, or that she was experiencing "cognitive fatigue" and wasn't aware of her surroundings.
In addition to Stein, Bagby cast doubt on the reliability of an accident reconstruction specialist hired by Hinman. Scott Naramore, who testified earlier in the week, admitted he never inspected the vehicles involved in the crash, examined the roadway where it occurred or spoke to witnesses.
Police estimate Reynosa was traveling 63 to 68 mph when she hit the motorcycle. Naramore testified he believed she was traveling 45 mph or less.
The speed limit on that stretch of Jewetta Avenue is 45 mph.
Reynosa, 22, had been cited three times for speeding in the months leading up to the crash. She gave investigators various stories of how she was distracted by her cellphone just before impact.
Investigators found a partial text message draft on her phone they believe she was composing when she crashed.
Hinman has argued the prosecution will fail to prove Reynosa was either speeding or texting at the time of the crash. He said the draft has no time stamp and it's impossible to know when it was written.
Reynosa faces up to six years in prison if convicted. The trial marks the first time in Kern County someone has been charged with manslaughter in connection with texting while driving.