A Ventura man who was released from jail with an apology after police said he did not cause a drunk-driving death most likely was at fault, an accident-reconstruction expert told prosecutors.
But prosecutors, who made the opinion public Wednesday, announced they were closing their investigation into the November, 1992, accident, which claimed the life of a 16-year-old girl.
Chief Deputy Dist. Atty. Kevin J. McGee said it does not seem possible to prove to a jury that 21-year-old Antonio D. Morales was behind the wheel of a pickup truck being pursued on the Santa Paula Freeway by California Highway Patrol officers when it plowed into a van carrying Victoria Gonzales of Bakersfield.
A murder charge was dismissed against Morales in March, 1993, after CHP investigators concluded that he was a passenger in the truck and that the driver was Andres Seals, 21, of Oxnard.
Each man said the other was driving.
But accident-reconstruction expert Carley Ward, who has a doctorate in engineering and specializes in biomechanics and dynamics, was hired by prosecutors and determined that Morales drove the truck.
Because the CHP had come to a different conclusion, prosecutors felt a jury would refuse to convict Morales, McGee said.
Morales' lawyer, Deputy Public Defender Richard E. Holley, said, "It was clear to both the CHP and our experts that Tony Morales was not the driver."
McGee called the incident a tragedy for the victim's family.
"They are disappointed, as are we," he said. The family could not be reached for comment.