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Name: People v. Superior Court (Costa)
Case #: B220346
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 2 DCA
Division: 8
Opinion Date: 04/06/2010

A grand jury indictment for second degree murder in a vehicular homicide case should be set aside only if there is no evidence connecting defendant to the crime. Costa, a truck driver with a class-A commercial license, drove his 25-ton semi trailer, carrying a load of vehicles, down a mountain road. The brakes failed and the truck crashed into cars and businesses, killing two people and injuring others. The grand jury received evidence that Costa, with the class A license, was required to check the safety of his truck before operating it; as he started down the mountain road, another motorist flagged him over and advised him that his brakes were smoking as well as telling him of the danger of continuing and providing a separate route; as he continued down the road, his imminent brake failure was readily apparent by the clouds of smoke that could be seen from his rear view mirror. The grand jury returned an indictment for second degree murder on an implied malice theory, but the superior court granted a 995 motion and dismissed the murder charges. The appellate court granted the prosecution’s writ of mandate and ordered the trial court order vacated – sufficient evidence was presented at the grand jury that Costa was or should have been actually aware of the great risk of harm in continuing to drive down the road with faulty brakes on his vehicle; i.e., implied malice.