A 38-year-old Livermore man was convicted this week of two counts of second-degree murder for killing a mother and her toddler in a drunk-driving crash in Livermore in 2015.
Alameda County Superior Court jurors deliberated for two days before announcing their verdict late Monday afternoon against Brian Jones for the deaths of 46-year-old Esperanza Morales-Rodriguez of Seaside and her 14-month-old daughter, Ulidia Perez-Morales, on May 2, 2015.
However, Jones' defense attorney criticized the verdict Tuesday and alleged the case was tainted by juror misconduct. "The verdict in this case has no integrity," attorney Ernie Castillo said.
Prosecutors and police said Jones lost control of his car while driving under the influence of alcohol and crashed into an apartment complex in the 900 block of Murrieta Boulevard just before 6:50 p.m. that day.
Police said debris from the crash also struck two boys ages 6 and 7, who were taken to a hospital for treatment. In addition to the two murder counts, Jones was convicted of felony driving while intoxicated for injuring the 7-year-old boy.
Jones faces a lengthy state prison term of up to 30 years to life or more when he's sentenced by Alameda Superior Court Judge Paul Delucchi on Feb. 23.
Livermore police said Jones had attended the Livermore Wine Country Festival before the crash.
Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O'Malley said when she filed charges against Jones that his blood-alcohol content was 0.14%, well above the legal limit for drinking and driving.
O'Malley said Jones was under the influence of alcohol as he drove his car at speeds ranging from 75 mph to 99 mph through residential streets in Livermore.
Rosa Morales, Morales-Rodriguez's cousin, testified at that hearing that the crash occurred while she was hosting a party to celebrate her daughter's 19th birthday and that Morales-Rodriguez and her daughter had been among her guests.
In criticizing the guilty verdicts, Castillo said Delucchi ruled before Jones' trial began that the prosecution couldn't tell jurors that Jones has a prior conviction for driving while intoxicated in Sacramento County in 2003 because that information would be prejudicial.
But Castillo said that when a female juror told other jurors that she would vote to convict Jones of gross vehicular manslaughter instead of second-degree murder, another female juror, in an attempt to get her to change her mind, told her in front of the entire panel about Jones' prior conviction.
Castillo said Delucchi dismissed the juror who disclosed Jones' prior conviction but he also dismissed the juror who had reported that juror's comments.
The defense attorney said the juror who reported the improper comments "deliberated and participated in the legal process but was removed simply because she was the focus of the offending juror's misconduct."
Castillo alleged that Delucchi's decision to remove the holdout juror "was a certain windfall against Mr. Jones and an implied direction from the court to convict him of murder."
"We will make every effort to get this verdict thrown out," Castillo said. "Brian Jones is not a murderer and he deserves a new trial."
Prosecutor Kevin Ikuma asked jurors in his closing argument last week to convict Jones of two counts of second-degree murder and the felony DUI count.
But Castillo, who admitted that what Jones did was irresponsible, said his client should only be convicted of the lesser charge of gross vehicular manslaughter because he believes Jones didn't intend to kill anyone.
A spokeswoman for the district attorney's office declined to comment on Castillo's allegation that Jones didn't get a fair trial.