A woman from San Clemente was suspected of drunk driving in Huntington Beach on March 30, 2018, resulting in the death of three people. While reportedly under the influence, Bani Marcela Duarte, 29, crashed her car into a stopped vehicle along Pacific Coast Highway. Three of the four young teens inside the other car died from the impact.
Witnesses stated that Duarte first hit a curb and then continued on driving down the road. While there was no major damage to the car, it appeared that she was intoxicated and not properly able to operate her vehicle. Witnesses reported her to the police and proceeded to follow her from a safe distance. Not too long after, Duarte approached a red light and crashed into a stopped Toyota Corolla at close to a speed of 80mph.
Her trial started on September 25th, and she is being charged with three counts of second-degree murder. In addition, the court charged her with a felony count of driving under the influence of alcohol with an enhancement for causing great bodily injury.
In Duarte’s defense, her attorney Justin Glenn started off with conceding that Duarte had been under the influence during the PCH incident. However, he argued that she should not be charged with murder. Prosecutors often use the Watson advisement as reason to charge a defendant with second-degree murder rather than manslaughter. It serves as a formal warning to DUI offenders regarding drinking and driving – telling them that the next time it happens, they might be charged with murder. In Duarte’s case, Glenn claimed that she was never given the Watson advisement at the time of her 2016 DUI arrest.
Glenn hopes to at least take the murder charge off the table with the trial.