Drunk Designated Driver Blames Orange County Fatality On Bicyclist
At her August 2009 sentencing hearing, Anaheim's Heather Elizabeth Azkoul apologized for what happened after she volunteered to be the designated driver for a group of friends partying at The Block in Orange: She got drunk, drove her friends home and, with a blood-alcohol level twice the legal limit, ended up killing a bicyclist near Knott's Berry Farm.
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"I am very sorry for what happened," Azkoul told Superior Court Judge Richard King, who sentence the then-32-year-old, three-time convicted drunken driver to a term of 20 years to life in a California prison.
Some of that proclaimed regret dissipated while living in Chowchilla State Prison.
In April 2013, Azkoul asked a federal judge to overturn her conviction because King violated her constitutional rights to a fair trial when he excluded alleged evidence of the victim's culpability for riding a bike without reflectors in the middle of the night and six feet into a roadway while wearing headphones.
According to Azkoul's complaint, King should have allowed the defense to tell the jury that the victim, a 41-year-old mother of five children, was high on methamphetamine and booze at the time of the collision.
She alleges the judge improperly blocked her lawyer from offering expert testimony that would have declared "the bicyclist's negligence contributed to or caused," the killing.
Her truth is that "even if she'd been sober and driving the speed limit" she would have "struck the bicyclist" because the victim was riding her bike in "an unsafe manner" with impaired judgment.
"A trial court abuses its discretion and violates a petitioner's constitutional rights when it excludes evidence that would have caused a reasonable jury to form a significantly different opinion of the prosecutor's case," Azkoul wrote.
But her arguments weren't even considered on the merits because she missed the statute of limitations to file her complaint by a year. Confronted with that rejection, Azkoul attempted to claim she should be granted an exemption because her filing got delayed while she battled health issues in prison.
This month, however, U.S. District Court Judge Otis D. Wright, II, accepted a reviewing magistrate judge's recommendation to dismiss the petition and close the appeal.
At the time of the bicyclist fatality, Azkoul was on criminal probation stemming from prior DUI convictions in 2002 and 2004.