Wednesday, October 10, 2001
C.A. Upholds ‘Road Rage’ Conviction for Driving Into Bicycle Courier
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The felonious assault conviction of a motorist accused of deliberately driving her car into a bicycle courier after he complained about her driving too close to him on a one-way street has been affirmed by this district’s Court of Appeal.
Denise Wallace drew a 180-day jail sentence as a condition of three years probation after jurors found her guilty of assault with a deadly weapon or by means likely to produce great bodily injury, and of leaving the scene of an accident involving injury.
The charges stemmed from a 1999 incident on 5th Street near Flower Street in downtown Los Angeles.
Courier David Lopez said Wallace had driven to within three feet of him before he shouted “What the hell is your problem?” She responded, he said, by moving closer before yelling “You’re the f—in’ problem. You idiot. Get the f— off the street.”
Wallace, he said, then drove through the intersection of 5th and Flower, with Lopez two lanes away, before driving back towards him, revving her engine, and hitting him. Wallace’s vehicle was identified by a pursuing motorist who got her tag number, and Lopez identified her photograph.
Lopez suffered a bruised kidney and internal bleeding.
Wallace, who is black, claimed that Lopez cursed her, made a racist remark about her, and struck her mirror with his metal bicycle lock after he cut in front of her and she sounded her horn. She said she pursued Lopez in order “to make him be accountable for the mirror” and struck his bicycle accidentally.
She left the scene, she testified, because she feared Lopez would use the lock as a weapon. She called the police that evening, she said, but was told that no report could be taken because she couldn’t identify the cyclist.
A pedestrian who saw the collision said Wallace accelerated and ran through a red light and appeared to be laughing.
In an unpublished opinion for Div. Six, filed Thursday, Presiding Justice Arthur L. Gilbert rejected Wallace’s contention that Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Kathleen Kennedy-Powell should have instructed jurors on the elements of the necessity defense.
To be entitled to a necessity instruction, Gilbert explained, the defense must present evidence that the accused acted to prevent a significant and imminent evil, had no reasonable legal alternative, did not create a greater danger than the one avoided, had a good-faith and objectively reasonable belief that the act was necessary, and did not contribute to the emergency.
Wallace failed to meet the test, Gilbert said, because her own testimony established that she “substantially contributed to the situation” by pursuing Lopez after he allegedly struck the mirror.
“Moreover, Wallace did not establish that she had no reasonable alternative to fleeing,” the jurist wrote.
Attorneys on appeal were John L. Staley, by appointment, for the defendant and Deputy Attorneys General Marc J. Nolan and Jennifer A. Jadowitz for the prosecution.
The case is People v. Wallace, B147672.
Copyright 2001, Metropolitan News Company