The drug treatment records of a man charged with murder and hit-and-run were under discussion Thursday in Santa Barbara Superior Court, and a judge ruled that he will review the sealed records and decide what can be presented to the prosecution.
Raymond Morua, a former aide to Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara, is in custody on charges that he was driving while intoxicated and struck a 27-year-old woman as she was crossing the street on Dec. 6, 2013.
Mallory Dies was taken off life support Dec. 11, five days after suffering massive head injuries.
Police stated that Morua's blood-alcohol level — 0.17 percent — was more than twice the legal limit at which a driver is considered drunk.
Morua remains in custody without bail at Santa Barbara County Jail. He is charged with murder, gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, and leaving the scene of an accident that resulted in death. He faces 15 years to life in prison if convicted.
Morua has two previous DUI cases in Ventura County Superior Court, and his court-ordered drug treatment program was conducted by the Ventura County Behavioral Health Department.
Morua's attorney, Darryl Genis, maintained Thursday that those records fall under HIPPA, a federal law governing patient confidentiality of medical records.
Facts in the documents could be relevant to implied malice, which would be central to a murder charge, as well as gross negligence, Judge Thomas Adams said.
"I don't know if there is a case law to suggest DUI program paperwork is the same as medical records," Adams said.
Unlike Santa Barbara County's court-mandated drug and alcohol treatment, Ventura's program is administered by a medical facility, which could mean additional hurdles to clear before a subpoena can be issued.
Genis called the move a "fishing expedition" by prosecutor Arnie Tolks.
"Alcoholism is a medical condition," Genis maintained, adding that the records could be obtained without rushing the process. "We could probably get to where Mr. Tolks wants to go, but we have to do it the right way."
Tolks said he's been specific with the request, among which are attendance records in the program.
Adams ordered that the records be put forward and reviewed to determine whether they be released to the prosecution.
Genis said since he hadn't seen the paperwork, he didn't feel prepared to enter a plea.
Arraignment is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Feb. 27.
Mallory's father, Matt Dies, was in court on Thursday, along with several of Mallory's friends all wearing blue shirts with the "Vow 4 Mal" insignia, the nonprofit the group has started to educated people about the dangers of drunken driving.
Dies said he was hoping to hear the defendant enter a plea, but said he understood the steps the judge was taking to be cautious about the process.
"It's a little bit frustrating of course, but I have a lot of faith in the system," Dies said.