An appeal filed by a Bakersfield man seeking to overturn his murder conviction for plowing into another vehicle while driving impaired on city streets at speeds approaching 120 mph was rejected after appellate judges determined the evidence against him was sufficient to find he acted with implied malice.
Alex Anthony Rubio, 29, will continue to serve his 15-years-to-life prison term following the ruling by the 5th District Court of Appeal.
Rubio acknowledged driving more than twice the posted speed limit and possibly disregarding a red light around 3 a.m. on Jan. 3, 2014, when he sped south on New Stine Road and crashed into a car headed west on Ming Avenue, according to appellate court documents. The other vehicle's driver, Princess Almonidovar, 22, was killed instantly.
But Rubio argued there's not enough evidence to support a finding of implied malice — necessary for a second-degree murder conviction — because, among other things, there weren't many motorists on the road at that time, he didn't have an "extraordinarily high" intoxication level and he'd received minimal exposure to the dangers of driving while impaired.
In reviewing the case, the appellate court first noted implied malice means a defendant "deliberately committed an act, the natural consequences of which were dangerous to life, with knowledge of its danger to life and a conscious disregard of that danger."
Rubio's actions fit the bill, the court found.
His blood alcohol concentration was at least .14 percent, not considered extreme, but still well above the state legal limit of .08. He performed poorly on field sobriety tests. Officers noticed numerous signs of intoxication such as slurred speech and watery eyes.
While Rubio claimed he had received little in the way of warnings about drunken driving, the court noted he signed driver's license applications stating he had been advised driving while impaired could lead to a murder charge.
Also, family and friends repeatedly told him not to drive under the influence, according to the document.. His mother, in particular, stressed how dangerous his actions were.
In a recorded phone call Rubio made from jail, his mother said, "I'm not gonna sit here and tell you I told you so. I'm not. But I wish you would have heard me when I was crying out to you this whole time ... 'Cause I told you it would happen one day."
The appellate court's Nov. 29 ruling, written by Associate Justice Mark W. Snauffer, found Rubio's "extremely reckless" driving to be possibly the most significant factor in support of implied malice.
Rubio drove through a red light at 118 mph — 73 mph over the posted speed limit — without braking and with the accelerator floored.
"A reasonable juror could conclude that this conduct, taken together, evidences a conscious disregard of the danger he posed to the lives of others on the roadway," Snauffer wrote.
And while the risk to others may have been diminished with fewer motorists out at that hour, the danger "was not extinguished," the ruling states. In effect, the justices say driving in the manner Rubio did posed a threat at any time.
In December 2015, a jury found Rubio guilty of the murder charge as well as gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, hit and run causing death and resisting arrest.
After Rubio's Chrysler 300 slammed into Almonidovar's Toyota Celica, destroying her car, the Chrysler rolled over, hit a traffic signal pole and utility box and slid on its roof before coming to a rest on New Stine Road nearly 600 feet from the point of impact. Half the roof of Almonidovar's vehicle was found next to the Chrysler.
Uninjured, Rubio scrambled from his luxury sedan, jumped a nearby wall and hid in a backyard, according to documents. When spotted by an officer, he took off. He ran from one yard to the next, climbing three fences before an officer caught him and took him to the ground.
Rubio struggled with the officer and ignored commands. An officer struck him once in the leg with a baton and hit him several times in the face before he stopped resisting, documents said.
Rubio will become eligible for parole in March 2027.