Woman charged in OC distracted driving case gets retrial in April

Thursday, March 12, 2015
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The family of a woman killed in a distracted driving case attended court hoping to hear the alleged killer take a plea deal, instead they were told there would be a retrial.

SANTA ANA, Calif. (KABC) -- It was an emotional and frustrating day in court Wednesday for the family of a young woman allegedly killed by a distracted driver.

The victim's mother, Dawn Mauer, cried outside the courtroom.

Her 23-year-old daughter Deanna was hit and killed nearly four years ago while driving on the 405 Freeway in Westminster.

The Mauer family came to court in Santa Ana expecting the defendant Jorene Nicolas would accept a plea deal. Instead, the 32-year-old San Diego resident changed her mind and asked for a new attorney--her third one.

"This woman has just made excuse after excuse after excuse and has gotten away with it," Dawn Mauer said.

Nicolas is accused of hitting and killing Mauer. Prosecutors allege that Nicolas was using her phone, driving more than 80 miles an hour, and she did not realize the traffic had stopped until she slammed into Mauer's car on the freeway.

Nicolas denies using her phone and alleges the victim cut in front of her.

In 2014, a jury deadlocked 11 to 1 in favor of a guilty verdict. Several of those jurors returned to court.

"I wanted to see justice for the victim's family and hoped that it was going to be today," Sharon Aguilera, a former juror, said.

Orange County Superior Court Judge Steven Bromberg offered stern words in court.

"I do believe she is doing everything that she possible can to delay this trial. I believe that is a manipulation of the system," he said.

Nicolas' new attorney, Joe Dane, assured the judge he would be ready for a retrial April 24.

Mauer's parents sport tattoos of their daughter and carry photos of her. She was a star pitcher at San Jose State University and dreamed of being a softball coach.

The Mauer family plans to attend every day of the second trial.

On Friday, the judge told Nicolas if she's found guilty in a retrial, he could sentence her to four years in prison. Under the plea deal, Nicolas would have faced just one year in jail and 500 hours of community service.