Walter McDaniel's attorney tells me her client is really struggling with the fact that someone died in the crash he's accused of causing two weeks ago. But Monday, McDaniel did what most defendants do in his position. He entered a "not guilty" plea.
Walter McDaniel kept his head down in court and spoke only two words. Even though the 36-year-old has a long rap sheet, he's never stayed in jail for long.
Investigators say McDaniel was driving under the influence, running from police, and accompanied by a teenage boy when he ran a stop sign, crashed into another car, and killed 55-year-old Earnest Grant. Prosecutors charged him with murder.
"To have a murder one conviction you have to have the intent to kill someone and what they're doing is transferring that intent of the car chase to the actual murder here," said ABC30 legal analyst Tony Capozzi.
Capozzi says it would be easier to get a murder conviction if McDaniel had been previously convicted of DUI.He has a pending case in Madera County. But history may be catching up with McDaniel.
"The defendant has been involved with juveniles for a long period of time and they all seem to be with him when he's committing a crime and running from the police," Capozzi said.
McDaniel has been arrested in the presence of three boys over the last year. Prosecutors charged him with child abuse in connection with the deadly crash because his teenage passenger was injured. And the district attorney's office added a child endangerment charge in another felony police chase case.
The same boy was his passenger during that chase last November.
"Clearly this man is a danger to the community and I think the D.A. is looking at every possible charge they can bring to ensure this person is not on the streets," Capozzi said.
Action News tried to reach the Madera County corrections chief Monday to ask about the investigation into why they never picked up McDaniel the week before the deadly crash. Chief Manuel Perez didn't return our calls.
McDaniel was facing a felony case in Madera County and two felonies in Fresno County when the Fresno County jail released him because of overcrowding.