Santa Clara County prosecutors are dropping a manslaughter case against the driver involved in a 2015 accident in Mountain View that killed a woman walking across El Monte Road.
On Aug. 16, a county Superior Court judge approved a motion by the district attorney's office to dismiss the case against Glenn Kawaguchi, the Los Altos resident involved in the accident. There was insufficient evidence showing that Kawaguchi was at fault in the crash, said Deputy District Attorney Marisa Landin, the prosecutor on the case.
"We looked closely at the intersection with regard to the light that was there at the time of the collision," she said. "We determined that we couldn't prove the defendant was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt."
The accident occurred on Oct. 22, 2015 at El Monte Road near the intersection of Marich Way. The victim, 54-year-old Michelle Montalvo of Los Altos, was hit by Kawaguchi's SUV while crossing the street in a marked crosswalk. At the time, Montalvo was walking just a few steps behind her sister Delia Moyles.
In his testimony at the scene, Kawaguchi said he couldn't see Montalvo until it was too late. The accident occurred before the sun had risen and Montalvo was reportedly wearing dark clothing. While drivers must yield to people crossing the street, pedestrians are still legally responsible for exercising caution when using a crosswalk, attorneys for Kawaguchi pointed out.
A blood test showed that Kawaguchi was not under the effects of alcohol or drugs, and there was no evidence to show he was distracted with his phone while driving. Police officers who reviewed a video of the crash also reported that Kawaguchi did not appear to be speeding at the time.
Nevertheless, officers concluded that Kawaguchi could bear responsibility for the crash, and prosecutors moved forward with filing a vehicular manslaughter case against him.
As the case progressed, Landin said her office commissioned an accident reconstructionist to determine how the environmental factors at the intersection played into the crash. Basically, the ambient lighting at that time of day and how that would affect a driver's response time stuck out in the analysis as problematic, she said.
Following the crash, city officials have brought forward a series of safety upgrades to the El Monte intersection, including repainting crosswalks and adding streetlights to improve visibility.
Moyles, the sister of the crash victim, described it as disappointing that the criminal trial fell apart, but she credited the district attorney's office for working hard on the case. She said that the city needed to work further on public safety at that location.
"The most important thing is that my sister Michelle’s death brought and continues to bring awareness for everyone to slow down and pay extra attention," she wrote in an email. "It’s important that the physical improvements happen urgently before someone else gets hurt or killed again.