Mostrong attorney claims officer gave incomplete testimony about defendant's alleged marijuana use

June 27, 2001|By DARREN SIMON, Staff Writer

Blake Mostrong's defense attorney, Robert Espinosa, on Tuesday challenged testimony of California Highway Patrol Officer Pablo Torrez, lead investigator in the Oct. 7 accident that resulted in the death of 17-year-old Michelle Marie Grady of Alpine.

On Monday, under questioning from Deputy District Attorney Wayne Robinson, Torrez stated Mostrong did not want to submit to a chemical test of his blood and told his attorney he would have marijuana in his system.

On Tuesday, Espinosa asked Torrez if he had a chance to reflect on the testimony he gave Monday.

He said Torrez had "selective recall" in that he had only given a partial answer to Robinson when he recalled Mostrong's conversation with his attorney Oct. 8.

"You didn't give the total answer," said Espinosa, an El Centro attorney, claiming that there was more to the conversation Mostrong had with his attorney in the Highway Patrol office.


Espinosa claimed Mostrong told his attorney he might have marijuana in his system, but he had used marijuana days before the accident.

Torrez said he did not recall that part of Mostrong's conversation with his attorney.

Espinosa said Tuesday, on Jan. 8 Torrez made a statement that he did recall more about Mostrong's conversation with his attorney.

Espinosa referred to a document from Torrez's Jan. 8 statement in which Torrez reportedly said Mostrong had told his attorney Oct. 8 the marijuana was not related to the crash.

Espinosa said Torrez left that information out of his report on the accident and the arrest of Mostrong.

"One would think they would put that in the report unless they were trying to conceal it," Espinosa told Torrez.

Torrez responded, "I do not have anything to conceal."

The marijuana issue is one of several critical points in the prosecution's case against Mostrong.

The DA's office is asking the jury to find Mostrong, 21, of El Centro guilty of vehicular manslaughter, hit and run and driving under the influence.

Robinson has contended Mostrong was under the influence of alcohol and marijuana when he drove down Wheeler Road on Oct. 7.

Shortly before midnight the van struck a golf cart that was in the road and also hit Michelle and friend Eric Welter, who were near the cart.

Michelle died at the scene; Welter survived his injuries.

Mostrong and reportedly one other individual who had been a passenger in the van drove away from the accident scene while the other passengers went back to the "keg" party they had been attending before getting into the van with Mostrong.

It was 16 hours before Mostrong, accompanied by an attorney, turned himself in to the Highway Patrol.

Espinosa has contended Mostrong was not under the influence and there was no way he could have seen the golf cart stopped on the wrong side of Wheeler Road. Espinosa has argued the lights of the car were not on while Robinson has said the lights were on.

Espinosa has claimed Michelle and Eric both were drinking alcohol the night they were killed.

Espinosa questioned Torrez on Tuesday on his investigation of the van itself, asking whether he had bothered to check the condition of the tires or the brake system, particularly since Torrez testified there were no brake marks at the scene.

Torrez testified that in the four days he had the van, the brakes were checked and were in working condition, but he added he did not have the van as long as he would have wanted for the investigation.

"You didn't have to release it, did you?" Espinosa asked.

"It wasn't up to me," Torrez responded.

"Why did you allow them to release it?" Espinosa asked.

"Their word is higher than mine," Torrez said.

Torrez testified that defense photographs of the interior of the van taken after the van was released by the Highway Patrol show a different interior than he remembers.

He said he is not sure if the interior photographs are of the same vehicle because a table was added, the rear-view mirror was gone and items on the mirror were gone.

Testimony was expected to continue at 9:30 this morning.

Staff Writer Darren Simon can be reached at 337-4082.

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