Jury to begin deciding Delgado’s fate

A 19-year-old Redwood City teenager declined to take the stand Monday in the trial that accuses her of racing and causing the crash that killed three people, including two members of the Tongan royal family.

Edith Delgado was stoic when defense attorney Randy Moore rested his case with hopes that a defense witness — a traffic collision expert who testified that Delgado was driving 70 mph at the time of the crash — is enough to acquit her of three felony counts of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence.

Prosecutors say on July 5, 2006, Delgado was “dangerously” switching lanes in her Ford Mustang on U.S. Highway 101 in Menlo Park while racing an unidentified black Cadillac Escalade. She was driving in excess of 85 mph when she struck the red Ford Explorer as she tried to pass, prosecutors say.

Delgado faces up to eight years in prison for the deaths of Prince Tu’ipelehake, 56, and Princess Kaimana, 46, who were on a diplomatic mission, and their driver, Vinisia Hefa, 36, an East Palo Alto resident.

The defense is seeking a lesser charge of misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter, which would carry one year in county jail.

During closing arguments, prosecutor Aaron Fitzgerald referred to the testimony of four independent witnesses who allegedly spotted Delgado speeding alongside an unidentified black Cadillac Escalade before the crash. Fitzgerald added that Delgado had a history of reckless driving and that teachers from Redwood High School had warned Delgado of her careless driving when she was a student.

“This was more than an accident,” Fitzgerald said. “This was an inevitability.”

Moore heavily referred to the traffic collision expert during his closing statement and attacked the prosecutor’s eyewitnesses, adding that expert’s conclusions were based on physics.

Moore said the driver of the 1998 red Ford Explorer, Hefa, turned sharply after the impact, which caused the SUV to roll over, leading to the deaths. Last week, the two sons of Prince Tu’ipelehake sued Ford Motor Co. in Santa Clara County court, claiming the design of the car made it susceptible to rolling over. The suit also names Delgado, blaming her for the accident but relinquishing her from causing the deaths of the three victims.

Closing arguments conclude today. The jury of nine men and three women then will deliberate a possible verdict.

bfoley@examiner.com

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