The retrial of a drunken driver whose horrific high-speed crash with a eucalyptus tree in Burlingame killed his best friend is set to begin Monday.
After a long day of boozing in April 2009, 38-year-old Bruce Alan Walker Jr. lost control of his luxury sedan on El Camino Real. The passenger side of the silver Infiniti M45 slammed into a roadside tree, killing pal Daniel James White, 36, of San Francisco.
Two years after the accident, Walker was convicted of gross vehicular manslaughter, which packs a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. But he avoided the more severe charge of second-degree murder after the jury hung 9-3 in favor of conviction. The murder charge would have had Walker facing 15 years to life in prison.
On Monday, prosecutors will again try to persuade a jury to convict Walker of second-degree murder, citing two previous DUI convictions in San Mateo County, in 1997 and 2001. At the time of the crash, Walker was also awaiting prosecution for smashing up a rental car while driving drunk during a business trip in Wisconsin, prosecutors said.
But the dissenting jurors in the first trial believed Walker’s case didn’t fit that of second-degree murder, which under state law states the accused is believed to have acted with implied malice or a conscious disregard for human life.
The three jurors said Walker was too drunk to recognize he was putting someone else’s life in danger, according to attorneys in the case.
Prosecutors say Walker’s past convictions prove he’s a public safety risk.
“He knew the consequences when he was driving drunk,” San Mateo County Chief Deputy District Attorney Karen Guidotti said Friday.
Walker’s attorney Geoff Carr says the murder rap is too severe.
“He’s been found guilty of what we think is appropriate,” he said, adding that his client will live the rest of his life knowing he killed his best friend.
Carr also said Walker and White had been drinking together all afternoon and that White hopped in the car knowing its driver was drunk.
With the manslaughter conviction alone, Walker would likely serve five years of actual time in prison, Carr said. To avoid a retrial, the defense attorney said he proposed a settlement increasing that actual time to between seven and eight years. Prosecutors countered the offer by proposing no less than 11 years, Carr said. In the end, neither offer was accepted.
Walker remains in custody in lieu of $2 million bail.