Evidence reinstated in man's vehicular manslaughter case

Appeals Court reverses lower-court ruling on blood-alcohol sample from former Stanford student

Blood-alcohol evidence in a vehicular manslaughter case against a former Stanford University student is admissible in his trial, the California First District Court of Appeal has ruled. The state Supreme Court on June 15 also refused to hear a defense appeal of the ruling, San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said.

Zachary A. Katz, 27, faces charges of vehicular manslaughter, driving under the influence causing great bodily injury, driving with a blood-alcohol level of 0.08 or higher causing great bodily injury and driving on the wrong side of a highway causing death or great bodily injury. The charges stem from a car crash in which he allegedly was driving drunk the wrong way on U.S. Highway 101 in the early morning of Oct. 5, 2013.

The former Stanford Graduate School of Business student struck a taxi head on after driving north onto southbound Highway 101 near Sierra Point Parkway and crashed into the SUV, according to the DA's office. A California Highway Patrol officer spotted him allegedly driving north in the southbound lane.

Katz drove for 1.75 miles before he crashed into a Ford Escape taxi, according to a CHP report. The two rear-seat passengers in the taxi, Pedro Soldevila and Miguel Santiago, who were not wearing seat belts, 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 Wagstaffe. He 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 Wagstaffe.

But San Mateo County Superior Court Judge Barbara Mallach ruled on Oct. 27, 2015, that the blood-draw results were 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 supporting that reading the defendant his rights was required to draw the blood. Prosecutors filed an appeal on Nov. 24, 2015.

The Appeals Court reversed Mallach's decision on March 29, 2016, ruling that seizure of the evidence did not violate the Fourth Amendment and that the blood-alcohol results are admissible at trial. Katz's attorney took the Appeal Court ruling to the California Supreme Court, but the justices on June 15 declined to hear the case, Wagstaffe said.

The case was returned to the Superior Court and was continued to Aug. 19 to set a new jury trial date. 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.

Stanford spokeswoman Lisa Lapin said on Friday that the university no longer has any active student with Katz's name. His LinkedIn page shows that he became chief strategy officer at Oliver, Inc., a New York-based apartment finding application, where he started in April 2016.


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17 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Stanford
on Jun 17, 2016 at 7:05 pm

No more Stanford affluenza! If you do the crime, then do the time.

Please report on the victims of this case. One man died and 2 were hospitalized. Are the survivors making full recoveries? Is Katz and his insurance company paying their bills are they now bankrupt?

11 people like this
Posted by GOOD!
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 17, 2016 at 8:00 pm

[Post removed.]

Like this comment
Posted by skinny
a resident of another community
on Jun 19, 2016 at 6:56 pm

skinny is a registered user.

@resident Stanford affluenza? Where did you read that Zachary Katz was affluent? I read that he was a scholarship student at Harvard in his UG program. Harvard doesn't give $ assistance to affluent students. Also there was no Stanford involvement in this case. Katz had just started the MBA program - maybe 2+ weeks in. He had attended an event in SF and was returning back to his home in Palo Alto, when the accident occurred.

Below is a link to the Appellate Court's decision. The question about whether or not implied consent warning was given was a moot point in this particular case because of "inevitable discovery doctrine." It's odd that Judge Barbara Mallach was unaware. [Portion removed.]


Even assuming respondent superior court properly determined that under the totality of the circumstances Katz had not voluntarily consented to submit to a blood test, we conclude that suppression of the BAC test results is not required based on the inevitable discovery doctrine.1

“The inevitable discovery doctrine acts as an exception to the exclusionary rule, and permits the admission of otherwise excluded evidence ‘if the government can prove that the evidence would have been obtained inevitably and, therefore, would have been admitted regardless of any overreaching by the police.’

Web Link

Like this comment
Posted by Jacob Simmon
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 20, 2017 at 11:38 am

Is there any update on this case? Has a trial date been set yet?

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

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