SANTA ANA - A 32-year-old Carson man was returned to prison today to finish out his term for causing a fiery collision on the southbound Orange (57) Freeway that killed two of his friends, one of whom was a well-known local musician, but thanks to an appellate court ruling he will have two years shaved off his time behind bars.
Jurors found Osvaldo Orozco guilty of vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated in September 2010, and he was sentenced in November of that year to seven years in prison. Orozco was convicted in connection with the Jan. 11, 2009, crash that killed Andrew Martinez -- who went by the stage name of Andy DeMize when he drummed for psychobilly bands the Nekromantix and the Rocketz -- and Jesus Colin.
A panel of Fourth District Court of Appeal justices in June reversed Orozco's conviction and sent it back to the lower court for another trial because of comments former Orange County Superior Court Judge Richard Stanford Jr. made during jury selection about the reasonable doubt standard for guilt.
Stanford was removed from the bench this year for making it more convenient for friends, family, staff and others to take care of traffic tickets.
During jury selection for Orozco's trial, Stanford told prospective jurors while trying to explain the presumption of innocence standard that, "It's not, for example, a mere possible doubt, because everything in life is open to possible or imaginary doubt. Instead it's the kind of
Stanford went on to say that, "As soon as you hear evidence then it may tend to overcome" the presumption of innocence, the appellate justices noted in the ruling.
The justices objected to that assertion and the judge's aside, "Whatever that means."
The reversal paved the way for Orange County Superior Court Judge Craig Robison to offer Orozco a plea bargain Dec. 20, Orozco's attorney Ryan Rodriguez said.
Over the objections of prosecutors, Orozco pleaded guilty to vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated and admitted two sentencing enhancements for inflicting great bodily harm. Robison sentenced him to five years in prison.
Orozco had 1,347 days credit served in custody, meaning he has about another year to serve before he is released, Rodriguez said.
"One of the reasons (the sentence) was reduced to five years was because both victims' families were in support of a reduction of the sentence, so the judge considered that given that if he went to trial again the most he would receive would be seven years," Rodriguez said.
At Orozco's sentencing two years ago, Andrew Martinez's father, James, told Stanford he did not want the defendant to be sent to prison and that he did not blame Orozco for his son's death.
"I believe what happened was nothing more than a horrible accident," James Martinez said at the sentencing two years ago. "It could have been my son driving. I don't blame Ozzy for the loss of my child."
Orozco was at a friend's birthday party in La Habra when one of his friends received a call from his girlfriend, who asked him for a ride because she was being hassled by a man in Orange, Deputy District Attorney Jason Baez told jurors during the trial.
Orozco agreed to drive, taking along his friends Luis Mendez, Martinez and Colin, Baez said.
The 1972 Chevy Nova they were in was southbound on the Orange (57) Freeway when it veered off the highway and into some trees near the Associated Road overpass, where it exploded into flames about 4:40 a.m., Baez said.
Backseat passengers Martinez and Colin could not get out and they were burned alive, Baez said.
Mendez, who was in the front seat, climbed out of the burning wreckage with Orozco, Baez said.
When authorities tested Orozco at 7 a.m., his blood-alcohol level was 0.068, below the legal limit of .08.