A vehicular manslaughter while driving under the influence conviction was upheld by an Anaheim jury in the case of a drunk driver who slammed into a parked vehicle on the side of an Orange County freeway and killed a man.

Sunset at Huntington Beach, California.
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Christopher James Koppi, then 29, was convicted to 13 years in prison for vehicular manslaughter in 2011 by the Superior Court Judge Patrick Donahue.

According to Deputy District Attorney Jason Baez, Koppi was so drunk on August 26, 2006 that he let his Ford F-150 swerve and drift across the southbound 57 and create a dangerous obstacle for the other motorists on the road.

The defendant then appealed his conviction and argued that it should be overturned because all of the trial’s evidentiary support “was insufficient to support a finding he acted with gross negligence and the prosecutor violated his right to remain silent by using his prearrest silence as an adoptive admission,” according to the 4th District Court of Appeal in Santa Ana.

Koppi also said that the trial was unfair because the court failed to strike a prior aggravated assault from his record and imposed a $40 court security fee rather than a $30 fee. The appellate court ordered the fee to be reduced to $30 but upheld all other judgments.

The court record showed that the jury upheld the conviction.

“Defendant had previously driven under the influence of alcohol in September 2000, when his truck rolled over onto the right shoulder of the road, causing the roof to cave in and the windows to shatter … As a result, he underwent a six-week driving under the influence program … These facts show defendant was fully aware of the risks of drinking and driving,” the justices wrote.

The jury from the first trial decided that Koppi was intoxicated and grossly negligent for causing the collision after evidence showed that his blood-alcohol level was .20 percent when it was tested about two hours after the 4:30 a.m. crash. This is about two-and-a-half times the legal limit.

Richard James Pettigrew, a 59-year-old from Santa Ana, was traveling on his way home from his shift as a security guard when he reached the scene of the crime in his 1981 Datsun sedan, and could not avoid hitting Koppi’s pickup. Pettigrew hit the back of Koppi’s Ford and then a third driver hit the back of Pettigrew’s car.

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