When it came to implied malice, a Sacramento Superior Court jury found that Paul William Walden’s drug-addicted behavior represented a living, breathing – and driving – example of it.
On Tuesday, jurors came back after only four hours of deliberation with a second-degree murder conviction against Walden. They also found him guilty of gross vehicular manslaughter and felony hit-and-run in the July 16, 2012, collision that tore a leg off Harison Long-Randall in a Carmichael crosswalk and led to the Grass Valley man’s death 13 days later.
The jury foreman said Walden’s single-minded pursuit of heroin the night of the collision represented a reckless disregard for human life – especially in light of the defendant’s three felony drug-related DUI convictions the previous 11 years and the repeated warning from his ex-wife and mother and others that somebody was going to get killed if he didn’t change.
“It was the scope of all the defendant’s activities – the drug addiction, the witnesses that testified that they tried to help him recover and warned him he could kill himself or somebody else, and he kept failing in those rehabilitation programs,” said foreman Rae Anderson, a retired attorney.
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Members of Long-Randall’s family were too emotionally charged after Tuesday’s verdict to comment on the outcome. A spokesman for the family, Jerome J. Encinas, described them as “ecstatic that it’s done.”
“It’s been a really tough two years for the family, reliving it through testimony and photographs,” Encinas said. “This is closure for Chapter One.”
Judge Patrick Marlette scheduled Chapter Two for June 13, when he will sentence Walden for the death of Long-Randall, 21. Walden faces a maximum term of 23 years to life in prison.
Anderson said the jury rejected Walden’s testimony that he had fallen asleep at the wheel of his 1987 Nissan Maxima when it struck Long-Randall in a crosswalk on Garfield Avenue at Engle Road while he was crossing the street with his girlfriend, Gemily West, and her four dogs on a warm summer night. West suffered a broken leg, and all four of her dogs were killed in the wreck. Some witnesses put Walden’s speed at the point of impact in the neighborhood of 70 mph or more.
“The fact he swerved before he went across the intersection, took out the (stop) sign, was enough to show he was awake at the time,” the jury foreman said. “He may have been distracted, but that was no excuse.”
Walden had just returned to Sacramento on a cross-country drive from North Carolina when he hit Long-Randall and West. He testified that he was driving around Carmichael looking to buy some heroin at the time of the collision. Deputy District Attorney Kari Reeve argued that he scored the drug maybe a half-hour before the wreck, shot it up in a Rite Aid parking lot on Manzanita and Cypress avenues and headed back out to the streets again, behind the wheel.
“We don’t know for sure, but there was some indication by the way he reacted when he left the Rite Aid” that Walden was under the influence, Anderson said.
“He was very slow in driving,” Anderson said. “It was unusual, when he entered the intersection. Two cars passed him before he could get into traffic, and then later on, the evidence of speed was clearly shown.”
The “spread of the evidence,” in debris that was scattered more than 100 yards south along Garfield Avenue – “that was something that had a great impact on the jury,” Anderson said.
Authorities did not arrest Walden until three days afterward, so prosecutors did not charge him with driving under the influence at the time of the collision. They did, however, charge him with driving under the influence when he was taken into custody. Blood tests showed Walden had marijuana and Xanax in his system when California Highway Patrol officers pulled him over to arrest him for the wreck. He was charged and convicted on that count, too.
The DA said she “couldn’t be more pleased with the jury’s verdicts.”
“I didn’t think it would be this fast,” Reeve said of the quick verdict. “It was a complicated case with a lot of moving parts. But it sounds like the jury worked through it.”
Reeve said she thought Walden’s demeanor in an interview with the CHP at the time of his arrest worked to his extreme disadvantage. In the interview, he told the investigators, “All you care about is the guy with no leg and no dog.”
At the end of his interview, Walden sarcastically told the detectives, “Thanks so much for making my life so much better,” according to the video clip. “Thank you for helping my life so much,” he added.
“Less than 50 hours after the collision, he showed no remorse,” Reeve said. “It was all about him, and I think that spoke volumes to the jury about what his mental state was at the time of the collision.”
Defense attorney Michael Long said he plans to appeal the verdict.
“Paul Walden is not a murderer,” the lawyer said.
Long-Randall’s girlfriend was glad the jury found otherwise.
“I’m very pleased,” West said of the verdict. “He got what he deserved.”