A California Highway Patrol officer made a tragic error during a high-speed pursuit last spring that resulted in the death of an Oxnard teenager, but no criminal charges will be filed, Ventura County prosecutors said Monday.
Officer Jack Raughton was speeding down Oxnard Boulevard in pursuit of a suspected drunk driver just after midnight March 23, 2002, when his cruiser broadsided a car driven by 18-year-old Christopher Haynes, killing Haynes' girlfriend, 18-year-old Jessica Mohorko.The teenagers were driving from a school dance in Oxnard to a restaurant when Haynes attempted a left turn off Oxnard Boulevard near Gonzales Road.
In a 40-page report released Monday, Senior Deputy Dist. Atty. Bill Haney found that neither Raughton nor Haynes could be held criminally liable for the death of Mohorko, a popular Hueneme High School senior. But he urged the CHP to review its policies on high-speed pursuits in urban areas.
After a three-month investigation, the prosecutor concluded that Raughton, who was driving about 85 mph in the 45-mph zone, made a momentary error when he failed to reactivate his red emergency lights while chasing the motorist. The officer properly turned off the lights while passing a cluster of cars on the right, Haney said, but should have turned them back on as he continued the chase.
"He is required under law to give Haynes adequate notice of a fast-approaching patrol car," Haney said. Without such notice, he said, "I have a hard time attributing criminal liability to Haynes" for not yielding the right of way.
However, Haney said, Raughton's apparent mistake is not sufficient reason to charge him criminally.
"Because the officer was within the course and scope of his lawful duties, it would not be in the interest of justice to prosecute him for what amounted to a tragic error on his part," he said.
Although the district attorney's report ends the criminal phase of the case, the Mohorko family is involved in a civil lawsuit filed last fall against Raughton and Christina Raughton, who is his wife and CHP partner; the CHP; and the city of Oxnard.
Jack Raughton suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and is off duty on injury status.