VAN NUYS — In a rarely seen jury verdict, a Van Nuys man was convicted of second-degree murder Wednesday for killing two people when he ran a red light while driving drunk.
Lionel McGinnis, 39, faces a minimum sentence of 15 years to life in prison for the July 27, 1992, collision that occurred after he had drinks at one bar and was driving to another.
The sentence could be doubled because there were two victims.
McGinnis had at least two prior drunk-driving convictions and had attended a court-ordered, alcohol-awareness school that covered the dangers of driving after drinking.
After the crash, McGinnis' blood-alcohol level was 0.25%, more than three times the legal limit of 0.08%, police said. When police brought him in for questioning, McGinnis admitted he was too drunk to drive, according to evidence presented at his trial.
Even though McGinnis testified he had blacked out before the accident, Deputy Dist. Atty. Phillip H. Rabichow was able to convince a Van Nuys Superior Court jury that McGinnis was guilty because he made a conscious decision to begin drinking, knowing he was going to drive afterward.
Prosecutors admitted that McGinnis had no intent to kill anyone, but contended he embarked on an intentional course of conduct that he knew was dangerous.
"Justice was served," Rabichow said of the murder convictions.
Defendants involved in fatal drunk-driving accidents are typically charged with gross vehicular manslaughter, which carries a maximum penalty of six years in prison.
The fatal accident occurred at the intersection of Woodman Avenue and Valerio Street when McGinnis' Ford Ranger went through a red light at 52 m.p.h.
His vehicle slammed into a Cadillac, killing Maria Henriquez Delcarmen, 16, and Eynar Contreras, 25, both passengers in the back seat.
The driver of the car, Rocael Contreras, then 23, and Anna Patricia Suarez, then 20, were injured in the crash.
Judge Michael J. Farrell will sentence McGinnis on June 15.