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Jury Deciding Fate of Forklift Driver Charged With Killing 2

A Santa Maria jury began deliberating Tuesday whether a driver was impaired by drugs and negligent in 2013 when he drove a large forklift in reverse on public roads and collided with a small sedan, killing two people and injuring two others.

The panel deliberated for 90 minutes before retiring for the day without reaching a verdict in the Santa Barbara County Superior Court trial against Daniel Castillo, 38, of Santa Maria.

Castillo is charged in connection with an Aug. 29, 2013, crash that instantly killed 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 were critically injured.

Castillo was driving a forklift in reverse on Philbric Road near Stowell Road when it collided with a Honda Civic.

He was charged with two counts of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, plus drunken driving causing injury and reckless driving causing serious bodily injury, along with several special allegations.

Daniel Castillo

Judge John McGregor told jury members they could also consider several lesser charges.

Castillo’s use of methamphetamine made him reckless, aggressive and dangerous on the day of the crash, Supervising Deputy District Attorney Stephen Foley told the jury while urging the panel to consider the “totality of the circumstances” surrounding the crash.

"There’s no explanation for a sober person behaving in the defendant’s manner,” Foley said, noting Castillo’s “irrational focused desire to get the forklift home regardless of risks.” 

Castillo testified he snorted methamphetamine for the first time the day before the wreck. Blood tests conducted after the accident were positive for the drug.

“It showed he had methamphetamine running through this system,” Foley said.

However, Deputy Public Defender Sydney Bennett noted that no tests correlate an amount of methamphetamine in a person’s blood with a level of impairment. 

“It is possible to have methamphetamine and amphetamine in the human body and not be impaired,” Bennett said.

What Foley contended were signs Castillo was under the influence of methamphetamine, the defense attorney instead argued were consistent with a man who had just been involved in a serious crash.

“Science doesn’t support the assertion that Mr. Castillo was under the influence of methamphetamine that day,” Bennett told the jury.

But Foley said the defense focus on science is meant to distract jurors from the facts of the case.

During the trial, Castillo testified he snorted meth found lying around a day before the crash and claimed it was his first time using the drug. He explained he did so for motivation to complete chores.

The defendant also testified he had a beer some four hours before the crash, and had taken one of his wife’s Vicodin pills due to back pain. 

Noting there’s only one truth, Foley said, “You know what you heard from the defendant was not the truth.”

The prosecutor noted Castillo was operating on five and a half hours sleep, and had a motive for using methamphetamine the day of the crash.

Use of methamphetamine is what prompted Castillo to drive the 12,000-pound vehicle on public roads in reverse and minus many of the proper safety precautions, such as warning lights, a follow vehicle or proper tire pressure for the nine-mile road trip to Castillo’s home, Foley said.

“You start to see a pattern of judgment going on in his head before he starts to go forward — or in this case, backward — on the road,” Foley said. “Safety and good judgment were not on his mind that day.”

Sitting in a chair at the prosecution table, Foley demonstrated the twisting movement Castillo would have had to make — and maintain — while driving the vehicle in reverse. 

Foley noted the defense attorney’s failure to call “logical witnesses.”

“Where’s all the people who could say he was not impaired?” Foley asked.

He argued for the jury to the convict Castillo of the charges, instead of considering lesser crimes.

“You should convict him of what he is charged because that’s what he did,” Foley said.

But Bennett said the prosecution didn’t prove the charges against Castillo.

“None of these can be met by the prosecution because they can not prove beyond a reasonable doubt Mr. Castillo is guilty,” Bennett said, asking the jury to find Castillo not guilty of all counts including those involving allegations of impairment or recklessness.

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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