Tahoe City hit-and-run murder trial hearing postponed | SierraSun.com

Tahoe City hit-and-run murder trial hearing postponed

A Placer County judge has put off setting a date for the trial of a Tahoe City man accused of killing a North Tahoe bicyclist last summer in a drunken-driving incident.

On Tuesday, Judge Colleen Nichols postponed setting a trial date after the defense attorney for Joseph Santen said the defense was still awaiting information from a toxicology expert.

The conference for 36-year-old Santen was put over to next month, said Placer Deputy District Attorney Chris Cattran.

Santen faces felony charges of murder, gross vehicular manslaughter, two counts of driving under the influence of alcohol and hit-and-run with injury or death after striking cyclist Brad Reilly while driving home from the casinos in Crystal Bay on July 16, 2006.

Reilly, 27, sustained severe head trauma and died at a Reno hospital three days after the collision.

Sheriff’s deputies arrested Santen at his Tahoe City home more than three hours after the accident. At a pre-trial hearing, the deputies testified that Santen said he wasn’t drunk at the time of the collision but drank three or four shots of vodka and smoked a bowl of marijuana after he fled the scene.

The defense alleges that no evidence proves Santen was driving under the influence at the time of the accident.

But the prosecution recalls Santen’s history of drunken driving. He has three prior convictions of driving under the influence, including a run-in with a Caltrans snow plow.

Cattran said he can’t predict whether or not the case will go to trial.

“The ball’s in [the defense’s] court now … If we can come up with a mutually acceptable plea that we think does justice, then we’ll enter that agreement short of trial,” Cattran said.

The defense is still waiting on information from a toxicology expert, Cattran said.

“It’s not unusual that the defense will do investigation and present it to us to see if that changes how we feel about the strength of our case,” he said. “To date, we’re not there. Nothing’s changed. He hasn’t come to me with any other offer.”

The trial-setting conference was rescheduled for Oct. 18 in Courtroom 13 in the DeWitt Center in Auburn.

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