Michael Joseph Campbell, a former Humboldt County Sheriff’s deputy is facing murder charges after crashing his motorcycle killing his passenger, Cara Banducci. Campbell and Banducci had left the Barfly Pub and Grub in Eureka, California at about 1:00 a.m. on March 1, 2012. Shortly later, a motorist called 911 and reported a floored motorcycle and two people lying on the road. Blood taken from Campbell determined that his blood alcohol content was above the legal limit.
The California Attorney General’s Office has taken control of the prosecution of Campbell because Banducci had been employed by the Humboldt County District Attorney’s Office for 10 years. After many months of reviewing the case, the Attorney General’s Office has decided to charge Campbell with murder charges.
Recall my post on Watson advisements. Second degree murder is generally charged in DUI’s involving a death when the driver of the vehicle has suffered prior DUI charges. In 1981 the California Supreme Court held, in the landmark case of People v. Watson, that someone who causes a fatal accident as a result of driving drunk can be found guilty of second degree murder based on a theory of “implied malice.” As a result, nearly all courts in California require the signing of a “Watson Advisement” as part of DUI sentencing in order to make prosecution of a potential subsequent second degree murder case by DUI easier to prosecute.
Campbell, unlike most people charged with murder for a DUI death, had not suffered any prior DUI charges. How, then, can the prosecution charge him with murder instead of vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, or even gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated?
The Third District Court of Appeals issued a ruling that “implied malice” can be found in circumstances other than Watson Advisements and DUI classes from prior DUI charges. The defendant in that case, Eric Dungan, was convicted of second degree murder for a DUI which resulted in the death of a Rocklin police officer. He appealed, claiming that the prosecutor did not prove that he had prior knowledge on the dangers of driving drunk because he suffered no DUI priors. The court upheld the conviction because Dungan had been an airman at Beale Air Force Base and had monthly safety briefings which highlighted the dangers of driving drunk. The court stated, “The fact that a defendant received instruction on the dangers of drunk driving is relevant to show his knowledge of the dangers; persistence in driving drunk with that knowledge tends to show a conscious disregard for the lives of others on the road.”
It is likely that Campbell’s charges are based on a similar theory that his prior knowledge as a sheriff’s deputy gives him prior knowledge on the dangers of driving drunk.