The state Supreme Court on Thursday upheld a former Palmdale resident's second-degree murder conviction for leading deputies on a high-speed pursuit that ended in a crash that killed a toddler and seriously injured her mother in Lancaster in 2012.
The court upheld an earlier ruling by a three-justice panel from California's 2nd District Court of Appeal, which rejected the defense's contention that the trial judge erred by refusing to tell jurors in Marvin Travon Hicks' murder retrial that the defendant had been convicted of gross vehicular manslaughter by the first jury to hear the case against him.
The first panel convicted Hicks in April 2014 of one count each of gross vehicular manslaughter and DUI causing injury and two counts of evading, but deadlocked 11-1 in favor of guilt on the murder charge.
The second jury to hear the case against him convicted him in October 2014 of second-degree murder for the Dec. 6, 2012, death of 2-year-old Madison Faye Ruano.
In its 2015 ruling, the 2nd District Court of Appeal panel found the evidence of defendant's guilt on the murder charge to be "overwhelming."
The state Supreme Court, in its ruling Thursday, echoed that sentiment.
"Defendant acted with complete disregard for human life, and he did so in an alert state of mind," according to the ruling. "He admitted a general awareness that his actions were dangerous. Moreover, he demonstrated, while driving, his ability to make intentional decisions, and his comments immediately after the fatal collision indicated his full awareness of the intentional decisions he had just made, including driving through a red light."
Video from Southern California's police pursuits and follow-ups on what happened after the chase
Hicks led Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies on a chase during the afternoon rush-hour, running five red lights and spinning out at one point, Deputy District Attorney Craig Kleffman said during his trial.
Hicks was believed to be driving at least 70 mph while heading west on Avenue I when he slammed his black Toyota into a blue Lexus at 10th Street West, killing the child and seriously injuring her mother, Tina Marie Ruano.
A number of area intersections were closed in an effort to rush the girl to Antelope Valley Hospital, with a trauma surgeon testifying that "it felt like forever" that emergency room personnel tried unsuccessfully to save her life, Kleffman said after the verdict.
Sheriff's deputies ordered Hicks out of his car at gunpoint after the crash, according to the prosecutor.
At Hicks' sentencing last year, the girl's father said he was "robbed of getting to hold my little girl because there was a criminal act that had to do with her death."
"We were robbed of Madison's life and all the experiences we were going to have with her because of the actions of Marvin Hicks," Mike Ruano said. "Please ensure that he won't ever get out and do this to another family."