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Murder Trial Opens in Canyon Road Accident : Courts: The prosecutor says the defendant showed ‘disregard for human life’ in driving a truck that killed a woman in Silverado.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A chronic speeder from Silverado Canyon showed a “disregard for human life” amounting to murder when his truck careened into three friends--killing one--after he consumed beer and marijuana last year, a prosecutor said Monday.

When Shane Kenneth Young, 26, realized after the accident that he might have killed someone, he told a friend to remove his Toyota pickup from the site on a narrow stretch of Silverado Canyon Road, said Deputy Dist. Atty. Robert Molko.

Molko said the Oct. 16, 1994, accident, which claimed the life of Young’s close friend and neighbor Jasmin Marie Cook, 20, occurred despite repeated warnings from residents, police and Young’s mother that his penchant for fast driving would someday end in tragedy.

Young “didn’t care,” Molko told jurors as the defendant’s murder trial opened Monday in Orange County Superior Court. “He showed a conscious disregard for human life.”

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Young, once part of a now-defunct state study of repeat offenders, is charged with second-degree murder and driving under the influence and causing injury. He has pleaded not guilty.

Young’s defense attorney did not offer an opening statement but said in an interview that he will contest that Young was under the influence of alcohol and drugs. Young is “devastated” that he was responsible for the death of Cook, who lived 100 feet from the crash spot and was one of Young’s closest friends, said James W. Steinberg, the court-appointed defense lawyer.

“This is a really tough case for Shane. He’s killed a very close friend of his and he feels very remorseful for it,” Steinberg said.

Young, wearing a casual print shirt and khaki trousers, faced jurors Monday as the prosecutor described the crash on the dark country road--and a series of previous warnings about Young’s dangerous driving.

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Molko said Young was speeding down the canyon at 50 m.p.h.--twice the speed limit there--close behind the car of a friend when he swerved to pass on the two-lane road. Cook was walking at the edge of the road alongside two friends on bicycle when Young’s truck slammed into the group. Cook, pinned between the truck and a concrete wall, was pronounced dead an hour later at Chapman General Hospital in Orange. Shane Graham, then 19, and Timothy Smart, then 21, were injured.

Molko said a sheriff’s deputy had warned Young about unsafe driving six months earlier after he detected the smell of marijuana during a traffic stop for speeding. On another occasion, an angry driver chased the defendant and scolded him after Young passed and the two nearly collided, Molko said. Another time, Young hit the rear of another vehicle while he was speeding, Molko said.

“Even his own mother, the defendant’s mother, had talked to him about his speeding,” Molko told jurors.

Molko said blood samples taken three hours after the crash showed that Young had been drinking and had consumed a “significant” amount of marijuana. Young was found to have a blood-alcohol level of 0.05%, which is within the legal limit. But Molko said marijuana and alcohol combine to produce an unusually potent effect.

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The crash shocked the rustic, 900-member community and led to the demise of a Department of Motor Vehicles study that had allowed Young to keep driving even though he had enough speeding tickets to have lost his license months earlier. Young was unknowingly part of a control group in the study, which dealt with punishment of errant drivers, and so his license was not suspended despite five traffic tickets in 1993.


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