VISTA — A judge on July 6 declared a mistrial in the case of a Palm Springs woman accused of killing two North County couples during a head-on collision.
San Diego Superior Court Judge Runston Maino made the decision after jurors informed him last week that they were deadlocked 11-1 in favor of guilt that Deanna Fridley had beendriving and was under the influence of alcohol and methamphetamine when the accident occurred Dec. 14, 2007, near Pala Casino.
“I’m really happy,” said Boyd, adding that he was pleased they were able to convince at least one person that his client wasn’t driving.
Fridley, who was criminally charged a month after the accident with four counts of murder, has maintained she was not behind the wheel of the GMC Yukon at the time of the fatal collision. The 26-year-old testified she and her passenger, Anthony Boles, switched positions in the vehicle shortly after leaving Pala Casino because she realized she was too impaired to drive; a surveillance tape from the casino shows Fridley entering the driver side of the Yukon around 11:47 p.m. — approximately three minutes before the crash occurred.
However, during the trial, Boles, who was initially charged as the driver, testified he would “take his rap” if he had been driving. After being pulled from the burning Yukon, witnesses said Boles immediately said he he’d not been behind the wheel.
Daly alleged Fridley, a member of the La Jolla Band of Luiseno Indians, was traveling around 85 mph on state Route 76 when she lost control of the SUV and slammed into a Toyota Camry, killing Jesus De Santiago, 45, and his wife, Lina De Santiago, 46, of Escondido and Vista couple Luis Baez, 51, and his wife, Rubi Baez, 46.
“It’s disappointing and it’s frustrating, but as much as I may feel that, I really feel that for the families of the victims,” Daly said of the mistrial.
Daly said her office will retry the case. A status conference is set for July 15, at which time a new trial date maybe set.
Despite the outcome, Jessica De Santiago, the daughter of the Escondido victims, said she was optimistic for a new trial. “I think of this as more of a potential victory than maybe a defeat, so I think that we’ll only get stronger next time around,” she said.
Fridley remains in custody on $3 million bail. She faces four 15 years to life in prison terms if convicted as charged.