Prosecutor Calls Crash that Killed Mara Steves 'Murder'

As trial begins, Adam Harrison Hall is blamed for a 2011 collision that took the life of pedestrian Mara Steves in Laguna Niguel. His attorney challenges the evidence.

A 29-year-old Placentia man twice convicted of driving under the influence of drugs should be found guilty of murder for a Laguna Niguel crash that killed a woman walking her dog, a prosecutor told jurors Friday.

But the defendant's attorney said the collision was not his client's fault.

Both sides agree Adam Harrison Hall was behind the wheel of a Ford Explorer that collided with another SUV at Moulton Parkway and Nueva Vista Drive around 11:10 a.m. on Feb. 13, 2011.

The dispute centers on Hall's claim he was westbound on Nueva Vista and making a left turn when his vehicle was T-boned. Prosecutors contend he was traveling north on Moulton Parkway and T-boned another vehicle before crashing into pedestrian Mara Steves, a community activist.

Hall was charged with second-degree murder, driving under the influence, forgery of a prescription and obtaining or possessing drugs with a forged prescription.

This wasn't his first brush with the law. In March 2008, he pleaded guilty to misdemeanor driving under the influence charges related to an October 2007 collision and was sentenced to three years of informal probation and a program warning about the dangers of driving under the influence.

Three months after that, he was arrested again for driving under the influence and later pleaded guilty to another misdemeanor DUI and was sentenced to 90 days in jail, five years of informal probation and various drug and alcohol programs.

In both cases, Hall was warned by judges he could face a murder charge if he caused a deadly crash while intoxicated, Deputy District Attorney Troy Pino told jurors.

Hall was traveling at least 60 mph on Moulton and ran the red light at Nueva Vista before the collision, Pino said. A blood test showed he had methamphetamine, valium and Xanax in his system, the prosecutor added.

Hall told investigators at the time he was northbound on Moulton and thought he had the green light, Pino said.

Dr. Steven James, who was behind the wheel of the other vehicle involved in the crash, was driving east on Nueva Vista, Pino said.

Steves, 48, who had been trying to find the owner of a stray Labrador retriever, was slammed into a block wall and died from her injuries. Veterinarians were able to save the dog, Max.

James suffered severe bruising in the crash and his passenger, Anna Gaffney, sustained a broken collar bone.

To make the case that Hall was traveling north on Moulton, Pino will rely on surveillance video from a Shell gas station down the street that appears to show someone who resembles Hall exiting the business in his vehicle at 11:08 a.m.

Complicating the case, however, was a "law enforcement error," in which investigators grouped witnesses together at the scene, giving them an opportunity to compare notes and mix up some facts in the case, Pino said. An accident reconstruction expert will testify that the skid marks and damage to the vehicles prove what happened, Pino said.

Hall's attorney, Deputy Public Defender Richard Cheung, said an accident reconstruction expert he hired will testify the damage to the vehicles shows Hall turning left on Nueva Vista when his vehicle was T-boned.

"All the physics ... do match," Cheung said. "Physics doesn't change, math doesn't change."

As for statements Hall made to investigators, he was "in shock" following the collision and was taken to Mission Hospital to be treated for a broken nose and leg and told authorities he did not recall what happened, Cheung said.

Hall's dependence on prescription narcotics grew out of depression and anxiety that arose when his father took his own life in 2006, his attorney said.

Cheung disputed that the man seen in the gas station surveillance video was his client.

Some witnesses will testify James ran the red light, he said.

"Whoever ran the red light on Moulton caused the accident," Cheung said.

-- City News Service

Sara February 02, 2013 at 02:40 PM
A doctor in the other car!? Adam has Meth, Xanax, Valium and other drugs in his sysytem and is a known COMPULSIVE liar. Gee, I wonder who to believe?
LN Mark February 02, 2013 at 03:42 PM
Did Hall still have a drivers license at the time of the crash? After two DUIs, why is he still allowed to drive at all? Ever? The state has some responsibility here.
Gustavo Weekly February 05, 2013 at 04:48 PM
Where is Adams gf now? What does she think about the fact that he manipulated another girl into giving him drugs? She was sentenced to TWO years in prison! I dont see his family caring at all that he ruined her life and family! Read the article in the OC Weekly about why ADAM was at Wallgreens when he was arrested. His family said he was with his step Dad, really? Picking up illegal prescriptions with his Moms boyfriend? Lies, Lies, Lies..
Jenna Tulls February 08, 2013 at 12:31 AM
Ok Sara, get a fucking life and stop obsessing over Adam. You wish you knew Adam You pathetic crack where. I've tolerated your twisted comments but I've had enough. Don't make me drive down to oc to personally shut that flithy mouth of yours :) go do something with your life and step away from the keyboard..... wacked out nutt job! Try me.
GO LIONS! February 08, 2013 at 03:00 AM
I wonder if everyone who is leaving nasty comments about Adam is going to apologize after they figure out he was the one who was hit???
Goomba Angel February 08, 2013 at 09:25 PM
There is no real victory in these situations. A wonderful person has died, a person who has a drug addiction is most likely guilty of DUI, and his life is ruined. We need to show compassion for all involved. Adam should pay for his mistakes but he also is not the same as a gun weilding murder who is out to kill. Any one of us here can go from Joe or Jane citizen to criminal with just a few too many drinks or pills. It is an unfortunate situation in society. People need God instead of drugs. I pray fftor all of those involved and that we all find some closure to this tragic event. I also pray that Adam will one day repent and try to make what ever he has left with his life a testimony to letting others know the consequences of this type of lifestyle.
Sara February 13, 2013 at 12:43 PM
Adams sister Jenna threating people with physicall violence! Now we know where ADAM got his behavior from. Nice family! I DO know your brother. My BF and Adam were like best friends for over 15 years until everyone got tired of his BS! His lies, stealing, lies, lies and LIES! How many of his "friends" come visit him? Everyone got tired of his lies and drug use!! Guilty loser.
Sara February 13, 2013 at 12:46 PM
I wonder if Adam or you are going to apologize to the girl he got arrested!! You dont care about her or her family do you? Go read the oc weekly story and see how he used some girl to get his drugs then RATTED on her to save his own ass!!
Sara Brookhaven February 15, 2013 at 02:36 PM
Where are all you Adam supportersnow!! Where are you Jenna, Sara, Miss S!? SO glad I dont have to EVER read your LIES again! GUILTY, GUILTY, GUILTY!!! Are you gonna tell us to wait for the facts still? That he did NOT run the red light?! GUILTY, GUILTY, GUILTY!! RIP MARA, Have fun in protective custody dirt bag!! Love the real Sara!!
Sara Brookhaven February 15, 2013 at 02:37 PM
Where are all you Adam supportersnow!! Where are you GO LIONS! Jenna, Sara, Miss S!? SO glad I dont have to EVER read your LIES again! GUILTY, GUILTY, GUILTY!!! Are you gonna tell us to wait for the facts still? That he did NOT run the red light?! GUILTY, GUILTY, GUILTY!! RIP MARA, Have fun in protective custody dirt bag!! Love the real Sara!!


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