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Judge declares mistrial in case of woman charged with murder of four people in auto accident near Pala Casino

VISTA - A mistrial was declared today in the case of a woman charged with murder in a head-on collision that killed four people near the Pala Casino, due to a holdout juror who couldn't agree that the defendant was the driver.

Jurors notified Judge Runston Maino last week that they were deadlocked 11-1 in the case against Deanna Fridley, who claims she wasn't behind the wheel at the time of the Dec. 14, 2007, crash.

The jurors returned today after a holiday break and told the judge they couldn't reach a unanimous verdict on the charges against Fridley, who was also accused of DUI causing injury and misdemeanor driving on a suspended license.

Before declaring the mistrial, Maino declined the prosecution's motion to replace the holdout juror with an alternate.

"You haven't failed as jurors; you haven't failed as individuals," Maino told the jury regarding its inability to reach a decision in the case.

Outside court, defense attorney James Boyd said he was "really happy" that he was able to convince at least one juror that his client was not driving the SUV at the time of the collision.

"My question," Boyd said, "is how is it that 11 of them actually thought she was driving?"

A retrial could start in six to eight months, he said. A status conference is scheduled for July 15.

"It's a real who-done-it," Boyd told reporters. "Was she driving or not?"

Fridley, a 26-year-old member of the La Jolla Band of Luiseno Indians, would face four 15-year-to-life prison terms if convicted as charged.

During the trial, Deputy District Attorney Brenda Daly told jurors that Fridley was driving more than 85 mph and repeatedly crossed double-yellow lines in the moments leading up to the crash that took the lives of Luis De Santiago, 45, and his wife Lina, 46, of Escondido, and Luis Baez, 51, and his wife Rubi, 46, of Vista.

Fridley spent part of the night drinking and smoking methamphetamine with her best friend, Amber Arviso, who herself was responsible for injuring several people in an alcohol-related collision about a month earlier, according to the

prosecutor.

Daly said the women were joined by Anthony Boles, and Arviso was later left behind after an argument.

Fridley and Boles were returning to pick up Arviso when the crash happened just before midnight on a curve on state Route 76, about three miles from the casino.

The two couples were on their way home from a night of gambling when Luis De Santiago's Toyota Camry was struck head-on by Fridley's GMC Yukon.

"All lost their lives because the defendant made her choices," Daly said.

Fridley and Boles were pulled from the flaming Yukon and hospitalized with broken bones. Her blood-alcohol level was .12 percent, and she tested positive for meth, the prosecutor said.

Boyd said his client was not driving the Yukon when the accident happened.

Fridley testified that she drove her SUV around much of the day, but switched seats with Boles after realizing she was too "messed up" to drive.

Boles testified that he was not driving when the crash occurred.

(previous story, July 6, 2010 9 a.m.)

Judge to decide whether to declare mistrial regarding woman charged with murder in collision near Pala Casino

VISTA - A judge today will consider whether to declare a mistrial in the case against a woman charged with murder for a 2007 head-on traffic collision that killed four people near the Pala Casino.

A jury told Judge Runston Maino last week that it was deadlocked 11-1 in Deanna Fridley's case, but did not say whether the vote favored guilt or innocence.

Jurors told the judge that one of their own had "shut down" during deliberations.

Maino will either grant a defense motion for a mistrial or replace the holdout juror and order deliberations to start over.

Fridley, a member of the La Jolla Band of Luiseno Indians, faces four 15-year-to-life prison terms if convicted.

The 26-year-old claims she was not driving when the crash occurred.

Deputy District Attorney Brenda Daly told jurors during the trial that Fridley drove more than 85 mph and repeatedly crossed double-yellow lines in the moments leading up to the Dec. 14, 2007, crash that took the lives of Luis De Santiago, 45, and his wife Lina, 46, of Escondido, and Luis Baez, 51, and his wife Rubi, 46, of Vista.

Fridley spent part of the night drinking and smoking meth with her best friend, Amber Arviso, who herself was responsible for injuring several people in an alcohol-related collision about a month earlier, according to the prosecutor.

Daly said the women were joined by Anthony Boles, and Arviso was later left behind after an argument.

Fridley and Boles were returning to pick up Arviso when the crash happened just before midnight on a curve on State Route 76, about three miles from the casino.

The two couples were on their way home from a night of gambling when Luis De Santiago's Toyota Camry was struck head-on by Fridley's GMC Yukon.

"All lost their lives because the defendant made her choices,'' Daly said.

Fridley and Boles were pulled from the flaming Yukon and hospitalized with broken bones. Her blood-alcohol level was .12 percent, and she tested positive for methamphetamine, the prosecutor said.

Boyd said his client was not driving the Yukon when the accident happened.

Fridley testified that she drove her SUV around much of the day, but switched seats with Boles after realizing she was too "messed up" to drive.

Boles testified that he was not driving when the crash occurred.

 

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