Perry Oakley Jr.
Perry Oakley Jr.
Prosecutors attempted to show jurors Friday that Perry Oakley knew he was putting lives in danger last year when he allegedly drove drunk, caused a crash that killed a boy and his uncle and temporarily fled.

Oakley is charged with two counts of murder, gross vehicular manslaughter, driving drunk, and hit-and-run in an April 9, 2011, crash at Normandie Avenue and 141st Street in Gardena. He was driving an Acura that slammed head-first into the side of a Toyota Camry filled with family members heading home from a party.

The prosecution and defense rested Friday after the fifth day of trial in Torrance Superior Court. Closing arguments are expected to begin Monday morning.

Oakley's version of events the night of the crash was countered by a series of experts who testified he drank much more than he admitted to, and that he caused the crash by speeding and running a stop sign.

Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney Jennifer Turk said Oakley knew well the dangers of driving drunk because he had attended a court-mandated education program after a previous DUI conviction.

"The defendant has been made fully aware of the dangers of drinking and driving," Turk said. "He chose to ignore those consequences. What he did that night showed blatant disregard for the safety of others."

Oakley faces a minimum prison sentence of 35 years to life if he is convicted of murder in the deaths of 6-year-old Sylvester Payne Jr. and his uncle, Samuel Dickens, 62. If he is convicted of manslaughter, he would receive a maximum of 25 years in prison.

Oakley had just left a party on 141st Place, where he said he had spent four hours, but he told police he only drank two beers.

In actuality, Oakley drank seven or eight beers that night, said Norm Fort, a forensic alcohol consultant, who was called by the prosecution. Fort analyzed several blood-alcohol tests Oakley was given in the hours after the crash, and determined he was too drunk to drive that night.

Fort estimated that Oakley's blood-alcohol level was either 0.13 or 0.14 at the time of the crash.

"The driving skills of the individual were impaired," he said. "It is my opinion that the subject was above (the legal blood-alcohol content limit for driving of) 0.08."

Gardena police Officer Matthew Hassoldt, an accident reconstructionist, told the jury that Oakley did not stop at a stop sign and was driving at 39 mph when his Acura hit the Camry. The speed limit was 25 mph because it was a residential area but no signs were posted, attorneys said.

After the crash, Oakley said he and a passenger were abducted by a passing motorist who drove him to a nearby house and robbed him of jewelry and a cellphone. He returned to the accident scene 40 minutes after the crash, saying the man had let him go.

Oakley's attorney, Michael Ooley, highlighted the lack of a speed limit sign, and said the stop sign was obscured by brush. He called one witness, Gardena police Officer Michael Bergeron, who said Dickens was not wearing a seat belt when he got to the scene.

Turk's main argument for prosecuting Oakley for murder, rather than manslaughter - as is commonly the charge in a drunk-driving crash that results in death - is that he had participated in the Youthful Drunk Driver Visitation Program after he was convicted of a DUI in 2001.

The program explains to participants the way drunken driving can result in death, Los Angeles County Coroner's Department Chief Craig Harvey testified.

"The primary message we try to communicate is that there are points in our lives where we have control of when we die," said Harvey, who leads the program. "There are points where we can have unintended consequences for ourselves or people we care about."


sandy.mazza@dailybreeze.com
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