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    Whittier driver convicted of Cypress DUI crash that killed La Mirada girlfriend
    • October 13, 2023

    A Whittier driver was convicted this week of murder for a drunken three-car crash in Cypress that killed a La Mirada woman during the early Easter Sunday hours in 2017.

    An Orange County Superior Court jury on Thursday, Oct. 12, found Nicholas Sanchez-McCormick, now 29, guilty of second-degree murder and a pair of DUI-related felony charges in connection to a 12:40 a.m. crash at Katella Avenue and Valley View Street on April 16, 2017, that took the life of Alexis Barragan, 22.

    Sanchez-McCormick was driving girlfriend Barragan back from Huntington Beach in a 2005 Chevrolet Malibu Classic sedan when going through a red light and striking a Ford Fusion and a Chevrolet Silverado, according to a prosecution trial brief. Barragan died at the scene, while several occupants of the other vehicles were injured.

    A test after the crash showed that Sanchez-McCormick had a blood-alcohol content of 0.17 percent, more than twice the legal limit to drive, prosecutors wrote. Data from Sanchez-McCormick’s vehicle showed it was traveling 50 mph in a 45-mph zone but not braking, according to the trial brief.

    On Jan. 1, 2017, months before the fatal crash, Sanchez-McCormick, who according to the court uses the pronouns they/them, was pulled over by a deputy in Los Angeles County, leading to a pending DUI case. The deputy testified he gave Sanchez-McCormick a warning, known as a Watson Advisement, that if they caused a drunken collision that killed someone they could be charged with murder.

    Also before the crash, Sanchez-McCormick was pulled over by a La Habra police sergeant after allegedly speeding past the officer and driving through a stop sign and a red light, according to the prosecution trial brief.

    It was unclear if those two cases have been resolved.

    And just 13 hours before the crash, prosecutors added, Sanchez-McCormick had been in a DUI class.

    Sanchez-McCormick’s attorney, Deputy Public Defender Terri Lynn Tauro, told jurors during closing arguments in a Santa Ana courtroom that Sanchez-McCormick had “nodded off” before going through the red light, having only gotten a few hours of sleep the night before.

    She noted that Sanchez-McCormick managed to drive for more than 30 minutes and “successfully navigated” at least two dozen traffic signals, stop signs and intersections prior to the crash.

    “It wasn’t homicide, it was an accident,” Tauro said.

    The defense attorney acknowledged Sanchez-McCormick was under the influence of alcohol, but questioned the results of the blood-alcohol test. She also questioned whether the deputy who arrested Sanchez-McCormick during the previous DUI case actually gave them the Watson Advisement, noting that it wasn’t mentioned in the deputy’s initial report.

    Such advisements are often used by prosecutors to argue that a repeat impaired driver is directly aware of the deadly danger of a DUI crash — a necessary requirement for convicting someone of second-degree murder rather than a lesser charge of vehicular manslaughter.

    Deputy District Attorney Devin Campbell argued that there was no evidence that Sanchez-McCormick “nodded off,” noting that following the crash they told investigators that they believed they had a green light. The prosecutor told jurors that based on Sanchez-McCormick’s blood-alcohol level, they had at least eight or nine drinks.

    As of Friday, they were in custody. A date for Sanchez-McCormick’s sentencing has not been set, according to court records.

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    ​ Orange County Register