Twenty-year-old Charla Wilkins died as a result of Anna Marie Reynosa's failure to drive in a responsible manner even after racking up three speeding tickets in the months prior to crashing her pickup into the back of Wilkins' motorcycle, prosecutor Esther Schlaerth said during closing arguments in Reynosa's trial Tuesday.
Not only did Reynosa run a stop sign, Schlaerth said, but she was traveling far over the posted speed limit and texting on her cellphone at the time of the April 14, 2012 crash. Wilkins was stopped at a stop sign at the intersection of Jewetta Avenue and Reina Road in northwest Bakersfield when Reynosa slammed into her at 8:37 p.m.
"She didn't learn her lesson," Schlaerth said of Reynosa.
Schlaerth's closing remarks lasted about 90 minutes. Deputy Public Defender Ernest Hinman spoke for two hours before court adjourned. He will resume his closing arguments 9:15 a.m. Wednesday.
Hinman argued the prosecution failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Reynosa was speeding or manipulating her cellphone when the crash occurred. He called police calculations of Reynosa's speed "nonsense" and said Reynosa's cellphone shows the last time she used the phone was four minutes before the crash.
Reynosa, 22, is charged with gross vehicular manslaughter, and faces up to six years in prison if convicted.
Family and friends of Wilkins wept as Schlaerth displayed several photographs of Wilkins taken at the coroner's office. The photos showed large abrasions on Wilkins' body, and included a shot of her face, her lifeless eyes facing the camera.
Wilkins suffered numerous internal injuries and broken bones, including a severed spine. Her motorcycle was hit with enough force to pin the bike upright under the front of the truck as it was pushed forward 331.6 feet.
The motorcycle becoming embedded with the truck is indicative of speed far above the posted 45 mph speed limit on Jewetta Avenue, Schlaerth said. Police have estimated Reynosa was traveling between 63-68 mph at impact.
Bakersfield police Detective Chris Bagby, unlike an accident reconstruction specialist called by the defense, actually showed his work in coming up with that estimate, the prosecutor said. She also discounted possible alternative theories brought up by defense witness Anthony Stein for what caused the crash.
Stein said under cross-examination his theories couldn't be ruled out, but neither could they be proven.
Reynosa told investigators she saw Wilkins' motorcycle a half-mile before the crash. She was aware another motorist was ahead of her, Schlaerth said.
Reynosa also knew the posted speed limit on Jewetta. She told investigators she drives that stretch of road every day, and knows there's a stop sign where it intersects with Reina Road.
But Reynosa wasn't concerned with looking out for other drivers or obeying traffic laws, Schlaerth said. She was more concerned with her social life, constantly fiddling with her phone up to the moment she plowed into Wilkins' motorcycle.
A text message draft to a "Nick" reading "Hey can" was found on her phone. Schlaerth said Reynosa was drafting that message at the time of the crash, and was so absorbed in what she was doing she failed to look up and stop.
Crash analysis found Reynosa failed to brake before, during and after the crash.
But Hinman told the jury the prosecution failed to prove its case for gross vehicular manslaughter beyond a reasonable doubt.
"Things aren't always what they seem," he told the jury.
He said Reynosa's previous speeding citations can't be used to determine whether she was, in fact, speeding at the time of the crash. He also reminded the jury it is not allowed to take into consideration that Reynosa didn't testify -- it's her constitutional right not to do so.
Hinman said police calculations of Reynosa's speed are "just wrong," and fail to take into account the weight of Reynosa's Toyota Tacoma. He also disagreed with police descriptions of the path Wilkins' body took after the motorcycle was struck.
Police say Wilkins hit and crumpled the hood of the pickup before her head struck the windshield and then her body flew over the truck. Hinman said accident reconstruction specialist Scott Naramore -- who testified for the defense -- analyzed the crash and indicated Wilkins' body was carried on the hood of the pickup for a while before falling off to the side. Her head never struck the windshield, he said.
As for the cellphone, Hinman said there's no proof Reynosa was using it when she struck the motorcycle. The last time stamp on her phone from before the crash shows she used it at 8:33:24 p.m., more than four minutes before the first 911 call was received at 8:37:47 p.m.
Hinman said the prosecution has largely based its case on an accusation for which there's no evidence.
"This text message is the smoking gun, and it's half of (the prosecution's) case," Hinman said.
Yet there's no time stamp on the draft message to "Nick," nothing that proves she was writing that message when she crashed, he said.