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Friday, January 18 , 2019, 12:53 am | Fair 51º


Forklift Driver Testifies In Own Defense for 2013 Double Fatal Near Santa Maria

The man driving a forklift that slammed into a car, killing two people and injuring two others east of Santa Maria, testified Wednesday that he snorted methamphetamine for the first time the day before the 2013 crash and now claims the car had crossed into his lane.

Daniel Castillo

Daniel Castillo, 38, of Santa Maria, made his statements during the Santa Barbara County Superior Court trial where both the prosecution and defense rested their cases late Wednesday afternoon.

Castillo is accused of driving a forklift backward and erratically Aug. 29, 2013, on Philbric Road, colliding with a Honda Civic and killing two people — Adolfo Pozos Carrasco, 16, of Santa Maria, and a passenger in the left rear seat, Casilda Diaz Pozos, 49, of Santa Maria. Two other passengers also were critically injured.

Testifying in his defense, Castillo denied using methamphetamine the day of the accident.

“Did you feel intoxicated the day of the accident?” his attorney, Deputy Public Defender Sydney Bennett, asked.

Castillo said he did not.

Under questioning from Supervising Deputy District Attorney Stephen Foley, Castillo said he found a baggie of methamphetamine lying around and snorted a line the day before the accident while standing outside. He said he needed the drug for motivation to complete chores.

"I believe I stated I needed to get stuff done around the ranch,” Castillo said.

Castillo claimed he only knew the baggie contained meth because he had seen it on television.

“How did you build that line outside in the parking lot on a ranch?” Foley asked.

“I don’t remember,” Castillo responded.

“You don’t remember the one and only time you built a line of meth?” the prosecutor asked with skepticism in his voice.

In addition to a beer he had with his lunch at 10 a.m. the day of the crash, Castillo also said he took one of his wife’s prescription pain pills the day of the crash for a back injury. When asked how it made him feel, he responded, “like aspirin.”

At Foley’s request, Castillo demonstrated while sitting in the chair on the witness stand how he drove in reverse, twisting his torso to face backward while mimicking holding a steering wheel.

“Did it get uncomfortable?” Foley asked.

Castillo said it did not. Foley noted the defendant had earlier said he had a bad back, which is why he took the pain pill prescribed to his wife.

For the first time, Castillo also said Wednesday the Honda moved into his lane.

Foley asked if Castillo ever told anybody else, including California Highway Patrol officers, after the accident about the Honda moving into his lane.

“I don’t remember if I did or not,” Castillo said. “There was a lot of things going on.”

The trial’s final witness, CHP Officer Greg Escobedo, later returned to the witness stand and said Castillo “never mentioned it.”

The defendant also said he partially moved the forklift into the other lane as a warning to the driver.

“My intent was to show them it was a slow-moving vehicle in front of them,” Castillo said. “I wanted to turn to the road as a warning signal to slow down, that I was about to make a maneuver.

Foley asked if Castillo intended to turn left in the safest way possible and whether he believed it required drifting over the double-yellow lines on the road.

“I don’t know,” Castillo said. “That is what I did that day.”

When he took the witness stand after the lunch break, Castillo admitted when questioned by his attorney to being nervous.

“Is that how you felt after the accident?” Bennett asked.

“Worse,” Castillo said.

Another defense witness, the emergency department physician who examined Castillo at Marian Regional Medical Center approximately four hours after the crash, said the man didn’t seem as if he was under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

“He was not altered during my exam,” Dr. Eric Ellis said. However, the doctor recalled Castillo being very calm after the deadly accident.

Outside the jury’s presence, Foley asked Judge John McGregor to allow evidence about Castillo’s prior drug use and treatment for cocaine abuse. 

The prosecutor also argued for permission to include the defendant’s previous statement about having 10 to 12 beers the night before the crash. The large number of beers proves, Foley said, why the defendant would have needed to take a stimulant like meth the morning of the crash.

And Foley fought for the right to bring in a witness who claimed to have heard Castillo refer the to victims as illegal aliens.

Not allowing the evidence to impeach the witness, Foley said, would make it difficult for the jury to find “a true verdict” and leaves jurors naive if they don’t have the full picture.

However, Castillo’s attorney said the admission of the evidence would be prejudicial.

The judge said his previous ruling about evidence would stand.

McGregor told jurors that closing arguments would occur Tuesday along with jury instructions. Courts are closed Thursday and Monday due to state holidays, plus McGregor’s courtroom will be dark Friday.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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