News

Stanford student's vehicular manslaughter case may hinge on technicality

Zachary A. Katz, 27, allegedly struck taxi head on highway while drunk

The case of a Stanford University student facing charges in the death of one taxi passenger and the injury of another passenger and the taxi driver could hinge on whether his blood was drawn involuntarily, according to the San Mateo County District Attorney's office.

Zachary A. Katz, 27, a Stanford Graduate School of Business student, struck the taxi head on while driving the wrong way on U.S. Highway 101, allegedly while he was drunk, according to the California Highway Patrol. A CHP officer spotted Katz allegedly driving north in the southbound lane on Oct. 5, 2013, at 3:46 a.m. Katz drove for 1.75 miles before he crashed into a Ford Escape taxi.

The two rear-seat passengers, Pedro Soldevila and Miguel Santiago, were not wearing seat belts and were ejected from the vehicle. Soldevila died at the scene; Santiago suffered skull, humerus and clavicle fractures. The taxi driver, Azmach Ejersa, suffered a broken foot. Katz was trapped in his car for 1 1/2 hours before emergency responders could extricate him, according to the DA's office.

Katz allegedly had a preliminary alcohol screening of 0.15/0.16. A blood test found a 0.13 percent alcohol reading at the hospital two hours later, according to the DA.

His case is now in the California First District Court of Appeal after a San Mateo County Superior Court judge supported a motion by retained defense attorney Geoff Carr to suppress the blood-draw evidence.

On Oct. 27, 2015, San Mateo County Superior Court Judge Barbara Mallach ruled that the blood-draw results are not admissible because the CHP officer did not read Katz the implied-consent law prior to taking the blood sample. Mallach concluded that the blood draw was therefore involuntary and violated Katz's Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable search and seizure. The judge acknowledged at the time that there is no appellate case holding that reading the defendant his rights was required to draw the blood. Prosecutors filed an appeal on Nov. 24, 2015.

On Friday, Feb. 5, Superior Court Acting Criminal Presiding Judge Susan Etezadi continued the trial case to March 18, for a review of the appeal status and to set a new jury trial date. The appeals court has stayed all of the lower court's proceedings pending its decision.

Katz remains out of custody on a $250,000 bail bond with the conditions that he may not operate a motor vehicle and he must abstain from alcohol, the DA's office said.

Related content:

Stanford student pleads not guilty after fatal crash

Comments

37 people like this
Posted by rhody
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 9, 2016 at 10:27 am

Maybe he wasn't drunk, maybe he was just thrill seeking. In any case, being found driving on the wrong side of the highway should be enough to make him liable for any damages and criminal prosecutions. Don't get caught up on why!


37 people like this
Posted by lawyer
a resident of Community Center
on Feb 9, 2016 at 10:46 am

Sounds like Katz's defense attorney is doing what he's paid to do–find some way to get his factually guilty client acquitted.


46 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 9, 2016 at 10:48 am

If he wasn't drunk, he was trying to commit suicide by driving on the wrong side of the freeway. Instead he killed an innocent person and maimed 2 others. Now he is playing legal games and stomping on the grave of the person he killed. Why is this case being prosecuted as manslaughter instead of murder? Surely killing someone is a foreseeable result of driving on the wrong side of the freeway.

Has the victim with the fractured skull fully recovered?


46 people like this
Posted by hmmm
a resident of Addison School
on Feb 9, 2016 at 10:54 am

If the ethnicities and affiliations were reversed this would not even be mentioned. There would be no chance of anyone getting off. Disgusting.


40 people like this
Posted by No matter
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 9, 2016 at 4:14 pm

The fact is that this young man killed people and badly injured others. It is what it is, no matter his intentions-- deaths have far-reaching repercussions for the families of the deceased. There are also far-reaching repercussions for people with severe injuries, as well as for their families.

I wonder how well-lawyerly-up, how well-defended, and how lightly punished the defendant would be if he were not a Stanford student? If he were a Foothill or San Jose State student, instead?


12 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 9, 2016 at 5:17 pm

Does anyone know if the surviving victims are fully recovered now? The collision was in 2013.


26 people like this
Posted by Sam
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 9, 2016 at 8:10 pm

There's no question that he was drunk, they did two blood alcohol tests. Requiring that the officer read him the law with no legal requirement or precedent sounds bogus to me. Hopefully the inadmissability of the blood test will be overturned on the appeal. I'd feel better about this if he manned up and plead guilty but with a not guilty plea I hope they lock him up for a long time. Maybe behind bars he'll be able to reflect on how devastating his irresponsible behavior was to the lives of others.


11 people like this
Posted by Member
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 9, 2016 at 8:21 pm

Whatever the merits of this case, this is certain: the Fourth Amendment to U.S. Constitution is NOT a "technicality". It's part of the Bill of Rights.

"[t]he right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated..."

What other of this society's fundamental rights are "technicalities" in the opinion of this publication? The First Amendment's guarantees concerning religion, speech, assembly, and petition? Or the Fifth Amendment's guarantees concerning due process of law and protection from self-incrimination? Tell us!


8 people like this
Posted by the_punnisher
a resident of Mountain View
on Feb 9, 2016 at 8:33 pm

the_punnisher is a registered user.

The other technicality is the fact that the passengers WERE NOT WEARING SEATBELTS and that contributed to their death and injuries. That question must also be answered. If this defense lawyer is good, this case could last for years and that student stays free.

Web Link

P.S. My 1977 XJ12 has rear seat belts and I require all passengers to buckle up.


7 people like this
Posted by the_punnisher
a resident of Mountain View
on Feb 9, 2016 at 8:55 pm

the_punnisher is a registered user.

.15 BAC ILLEGALLY TAKEN is Drunk. Alcohol Impaired driving is.08 BAC or higher.

The BOR is the ultimate authority. The U.S. Constitution is not a " technicality ". It is the law of our country.

Reading your rights is mandatory. Cops can't just take evidence without informing people of their rights. YouTube is full of videos on illegal stops by authorities.

After the cops are informed that this stop is being captured on video, they immediately let the driver go. Or the supervisor lets them go.

That is the law. Stay informed about the law.


16 people like this
Posted by AlexDeLarge
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 10, 2016 at 12:15 am

Hmmm, quite a reach. Hello prison.


2 people like this
Posted by Flash
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 10, 2016 at 9:30 am

@the_punisher, @Member: "The judge acknowledged at the time that there is no appellate case holding that reading the defendant his rights was required to draw the blood."


13 people like this
Posted by Malice
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Feb 10, 2016 at 11:14 am

"Why is this case being prosecuted as manslaughter instead of murder? Surely killing someone is a foreseeable result of driving on the wrong side of the freeway."

Because that isnt the legal standard for murder


5 people like this
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Feb 10, 2016 at 12:53 pm

How does the fact that the taxi's passengers weren't wearing seatbelts work in the defendant's favor, or does it?


4 people like this
Posted by the_punnisher
a resident of Mountain View
on Feb 10, 2016 at 3:01 pm

the_punnisher is a registered user.

It is law in the State of California to require all passengers to wear proper restraining devices when the vehicle is in motion. I posted the relevant sites in my previous posting. Please check out the posted facts.
Yes, that mitigates a point in the defendants favor. No seatbelts=> ejected passengers=> death & injury to passengers by violating California Law(s).


3 people like this
Posted by Member
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 10, 2016 at 3:10 pm

@Flash:

You write: @the_punisher, @Member: "The judge acknowledged at the time that there is no appellate case holding that reading the defendant his rights was required to draw the blood."

This case's issue under the Fourth Amendment is no more a "technicality" than when a Mr. Miranda voluntarily signed a rape confession when there was no appellate case holding that police must read a suspect his/her rights under the Fifth and Sixth Amendments (Bill of Rights).

No genuine issue under the Bill of Rights is a "technicality."


10 people like this
Posted by retired road dog
a resident of another community
on Feb 10, 2016 at 10:56 pm

I guess the judge needs to do some more legal research. There has been case law regarding similar situations for quite sometime. In a case such as this where a DUI driver has killed and or injured another and the DUI driver is also taken to the hospital,the arresting officer can have a blood sample taken from the DUI without advising him of the implied consent law. In fact, there is case law where the officer can have a blood sample drawn from an unconscious DUI driver and even have it done forcefully if the DUI driver refuses. That situation usually only happens in cases where there is a death and or major injuries to innocent victims. A person's blood is, in legal proceedings, considered physical evidence, and as such, there is no right for a person to refuse to have a blood sample taken in such situations as a felony DUI case such as this one. The mere fact that a person is driving upon a hwy or any roadway in Ca. "implies" that they have already given their consent to take and complete a chemical test to determine their BAC level. Driving is a privilege and not a "right". In run of the mill misdemeanor DUI cases where one is pulled over by an officer and subsequently arrested for DUI, the officer will advise the person arrested they have a choice of either a blood or breath test. The Implied Consent admonishment would only come into play if the misd.DUI driver refused to take a test, as he would lose his privilege to drive for 6 months as long as the officer gave the admonishment. But again, in the situation we are talking about here, the officer can have a blood sample taken from the felony DUI driver as that person has NO right to keep that blood since it is physical evidence. And that folks is the way it should be. If my wife or anybody I knew was killed or injured by an irresponsible DUI jerk, I would want that idiot's blood sample sucked out of him even if it took 5 officers to hold him down.


9 people like this
Posted by citizen
a resident of Midtown
on May 19, 2016 at 4:56 pm

Whatever happened with this case? Was supposed to go to trial last month.


1 person likes this
Posted by gsb
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 17, 2016 at 12:27 pm

A follow up on this by PA weekly would be appreciated. The accused is back at Stanford at the business school, as of a few months ago. Maybe Stanford has an obligation to let him come back to school while he hasn't been convicted, but the whole thing stinks.


Like this comment
Posted by Sue Dremann
Palo Alto Weekly staff writer
on Jun 17, 2016 at 6:00 pm

Sue Dremann is a registered user.

Stanford University spokeswoman Lisa Lapin said on June 17 that Mr. Katz is not currently a student at the university. His case is still active and a hearing for new date for his trial is scheduled for August. We will be posting a new story with updated information shortly.


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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