MARTINEZ -- Attorneys gave wildly different explanations Tuesday for why a sober Tracy man drove his luxury sedan head-on into a row of cars stopped at a traffic light outside Lafayette's Acalanes High School in 2007, killing a man in one of the cars.
It's undisputed that David Caspillo was traveling 50 to 70 mph, didn't touch his brakes or attempt to swerve before crashing into the cars and sending a Mazda Miata airborne. The driver, 55-year-old Walnut Creek resident Dale Zenor, was killed.
Prosecutor Simon OConnell contends Caspillo, 41, simply was distracted by the Global Positioning System in his BMW 745, as he stated to a medic, and should be convicted of felony vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence for Zenor's death on March 22, 2007.
Caspillo was speeding and "blowing through stop signs" in hilly Lafayette because he was lost after a business meeting and was in a hurry to meet his brother for lunch before his 38th birthday party, which was scheduled that night in the Central Valley, OConnell said in opening statements at Caspillo's trial.
Caspillo, a married father and an executive at IT consulting firm, has a rare and unusual defense for a vehicular manslaughter case: not guilty by reason of insanity. Attorney Dirk Manoukian told jurors that Caspillo had been acting so bizarrely at his business meeting that one associate thought he was on drugs, and another asked if he was diabetic. They said he was crying one moment, gleeful the next, and was throwing water on people, the defense attorney said. Caspillo's sister, who spoke to him by phone after the meeting but before the accident, said he was slurring, stuttering and, at times, unresponsive.
Caspillo has no memory of the accident, Manoukian said, and was held in a mental health facility for more than a week afterward.
"What we believe the evidence will show is that at the time of the collision, Mr. Caspillo was not conscious of the imminent collision," Manoukian said.
If jurors find Caspillo guilty of the charges, which call for up to six years in prison, there will be a second trial on the issue of his sanity at the time of crash -- called a sanity phase. If they agree with the defense, Caspillo won't go to prison but could be sentenced to a mental hospital.
During the sanity phase, Manoukian will present evidence that Caspillo suffers from bipolar disorder, and another disorder that was undiagnosed before the fatal crash, the lawyer told Bay Area News Group. Both conditions appeared that day because Caspillo had been traveling a lot, and not sleeping or eating regularly.
In the meantime, OConnell will be calling witnesses to the crash that occurred about 4:30 p.m., as Acalanes students and their parents were milling about on campus.
Lafayette resident Charles Poloka, the first to take the witness stand, said he followed Caspillo as he was speeding down narrow and winding roads out of concern that he was going to cause another accident. After the crash, Poloka said he ran up to Caspillo's car, which landed on a lawn in front of a gas station, and told him, "I saw what you did and I'm going to see you stand trial for what you've done."