Opening statements began Monday for a woman accused of being drunk when she slammed into a mother and her two young daughters, killing one of the girls, as they crossed the street in Santa Ana in 2012.
Jessicah Louise Cowan, 37, is charged with murder, driving under the influence and hit-and-run. Orange County prosecutors say she had a blood-alcohol level three times the legal limit and was driving at twice the speed limit when she ran a red light and hit the family, which had been holding hands and crossing with the right-of-way.
Five-year-old Osmara Meza was killed. Her 6-year-old sister, Gresia, and her mother, Eloisa, were seriously hurt, though both have since recovered.
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Cowan's defense attorney told jurors Cowan is not denying that she was intoxicated, but he says she was distracted by a call on her cellphone and did not try to leave the scene.
Cowan allegedly continued driving after the collision, but was pinned in by a driver who pursued and stopped her until nearby police could respond. Santa Ana police called the pursuing driver's action "heroic." A vial of medical marijuana was allegedly found in the 2002 silver Lexus sedan.
The defense is pushing for vehicular manslaughter instead of a murder charge.
Family members from both sides were in court, tearful at times. They declined to comment because they may later be called to testify.