Halverson withdraws ineffective counsel claim | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Halverson withdraws ineffective counsel claim

Tom Lotshaw

Larry Lee Halverson, who is awaiting sentencing after being convicted of gross negligence vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, has withdrawn a claim of ineffective counsel.

Halverson had claimed he was ineffectively represented by public defender Bridget Matos in his trial in El Dorado County Superior Court, but withdrew the motion Friday and asked for Matos to be reappointed to his case.

A jury convicted Halverson in October for a 2011 incident in which his vehicle struck and killed 51-year-old Patrick Purnell while Purnell was crossing Ski Run Boulevard in South Lake Tahoe.

Halverson was found by the jury to be driving under the influence of alcohol at the time of the collision, but under a legal threshold of 0.08 percent.

The jury also found Halverson to be driving on a suspended license and without wearing his corrective eye lenses and to have fled the scene and failed to render aid or notify police after the fatal collision.

With eight prior convictions for DUI and the gross negligence vehicular manslaughter conviction, Halverson faces 15 years to life in prison under California law.

Public defender Lori London was appointed to review Halverson’s claim of ineffective counsel and found it unwarranted.

“Based on my review, I think she did a very thorough job,” London told the court.

London said she also advised Halverson he would be better served having Matos represent him through sentencing and in his pending motion for a new trial, having spent months on the case.

Halverson agreed with the assessment and asked the court to reappoint Matos. Judge Stephen C. Bailey approved the request.

A hearing on Halverson’s pending motion for a new trial is set for Feb. 25.

The motion argues that Halverson was originally indicted for failing to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk, but that the indictment was later “substantially amended” in jury instructions to broaden the basis for his possible conviction.

It further argues that none of Halverson’s violations amount to gross negligence.

According to court records, the jury found Halverson did not violate speed limits or fail to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk.

While not part of the motion for a new trial, Halverson also has opposed the court’s exclusion of some evidence that Purnell was intoxicated at the time of the collision. London said Friday that the exclusion of Purnell’s blood alcohol concentration was a decision made by the court, not a sign of ineffective counsel by Matos.

Court records indicate evidence that Purnell had a blood alcohol concentration of 0.33 percent, four times the threshold for intoxicated driving. Matos tried to introduce evidence at trial to question the extent to which Purnell was intoxicated or neglected any of his responsibilities as a pedestrian, but was overruled.

If Halverson’s motion for a new trial is denied, a sentencing hearing is scheduled for March 10.

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