Man who killed four in Bay Area drunk driving crash loses murder appeal after arguing prosecutor was racist

SAN FRANCISCO — A Sacramento man who killed four family members, including two children, when he drove drunk on Interstate 80 in Contra Costa County has lost his appeal of four murder convictions.

Fred Lowe, 51, was sentenced in 2019 to 135 years to life in prison for murdering Daryl Horn, 50; Joe Horn, 14; Troy Biddle, 52; and Baden Biddle, 13, who were heading back to their homes in Napa when Lowe swerved into them on a section of I-80 in San Pablo. The crash catapulted the victims’ car over the barrier into oncoming traffic, and several other motorists were injured.

Lowe, who had five DUI convictions and nearly a dozen license suspensions on his record, was driving with a blood alcohol level roughly twice the legal limit. At his sentencing, he was given the opportunity to apologize but declined.

On appeal, Lowe argued that the prosecutor had improperly excused a prospective juror on the basis of her race. The prospective juror in question, a Black woman referred to in court as Juror 33, remarked during jury screening that when she walked into court and noticed Lowe was Black, “the first thing that came to me was this was, you know, a part of the institutional racism that is rampant in our country.”

Deputy district attorney Derek Butts dismissed the woman from the jury pool, later explaining that he was concerned she would “at least subconsciously” be biased against the prosecution’s case, and that she was “somewhat curt” when he tried to question her further about potential biases. Judge John Kennedy, who presided over Lowe’s trial, ruled Butts hadn’t dismissed the woman because of her race.

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In denying Lowe’s argument, appellate court justices noted Butts challenged “only one other African-American juror,” out of 11. They also noted Juror 33 made comments about “judging” the justice system.

“Indeed, he questioned Juror 33 extensively after she stated she had a bias against the judicial system,” the decision says.

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Lowe also argued that Butts committed misconduct when he made comments about Lowe’s attorney trying to confuse jurors into hanging, and that Kennedy should have granted Lowe’s request for jury instructions on on gross vehicular manslaughter and vehicular manslaughter. The court rejected both arguments.

Lowe is serving his life sentence in the California Medical Facility in Vacaville, records show.

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Source:: The Mercury News – Entertainment


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