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.