A trial date has been set for Jan. 11 in the case of a 43-year-old convicted drunken driver accused of causing last year's deadliest crash in Merced County.
Alameda County resident Martin Magallenes Deleon is accused of drunken driving and killing three people July 18, 2009, on Highway 99, south of Worden Avenue.
Deleon, who already had one prior DUI conviction from 2001, faces several charges, the most serious of which are three counts of second-degree murder.
Deputy District Attorney Travis Colby said jury questionnaires will go out Jan. 11, with attorneys' opening statements expected some time in mid-January.
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Chief Public Defender Eric Dumars, Deleon's attorney, wasn't available for comment Tuesday. Deputy Public Defender Tony Green filled in for Dumars during the brief trial setting hearing but had no comment about the case.
The trial is expected to last between 12 and 15 days. Judge Marc Garcia scheduled a readiness conference hearing for Oct. 26.
The crash was one of the worst in recent memory -- and a 12-year-old boy was among the three victims.
Deleon lost control of his 2000 Nissan X-Terra while driving in the fast lane on northbound Highway 99 at about 70 mph. The X-Terra drifted to the left, traveling across the grass center median. Deleon's car collided head-on with a 2000 Ford Mustang, and the Mustang collided with a 2002 Chevy Tahoe, according to the CHP.
Three people in the Mustang were dead at the scene. The dead were identified as Christopher Mata, 12, Gabino Romero-Robles, 26, and Ricardo Romero-Robles, 21, all of Orosi.
Deleon's blood alcohol concentration was 0.180 percent, above the state's 0.08 percent legal limit. A second test determined his blood alcohol content was 0.185 percent, according to the CHP.
If convicted, Deleon faces a 15-years-to-life prison term. He remains at the Merced County Jail without bail.
Reporter Victor A. Patton can be reached at (209) 385-2431 or firstname.lastname@example.org.