Fresno judge holds hospital hearing in triple fatal DUI crash

FRESNO, Calif.

Tranquillino Ramos Figueroa is charged with three counts of murder for a drunk driving crash last weekend. Wednesday, the court came to him.

This was Figueroa's third DUI arrest and he's been warned that if he killed someone while driving drunk, he could be charged with murder. Today, he heard those charges from his hospital bed at Community Regional Medical Center.

Judge Alvin Harrell and his staff took an important field trip to the hospital Wednesday. The judge made his way into the room where Tranquillino Ramos Figueroa is in custody, healing from the broken pelvis he suffered Saturday.

CHP officers say Figueroa was drunk when he crashed head-on with another car and killed three sisters. His arrest started a clock ticking, which forced the judge to turn the hospital room into a courtroom.

Legal Analyst Ralph Torres said, "I'm sure the guy was involved in the accident so he has injuries. He's in the hospital and the reason it's done in the hospital is because you have some time constraints."

Torres says the case could've been at least temporarily dismissed otherwise. But as Figueroa heals, several families grieve.

Jennie Monreal, Josephine Contreras, and Delores Rodriguez all died in the crash. Their sister Elizabeth survived and got out of the hospital not long before court hearing.

Figueroa faces a sentence of 45 years to life or longer and Torres says his back is against the wall because of his prior convictions. But he says a defense attorney may try to reduce that sentence by looking into Figueroa's background to see what may cause his problems with alcohol.

"Is it an excuse? No," said Torres. "I don't think it's an excuse, but it's a reason and you know, law enforcement, families, the judge, they want to know why."

Figueroa is in fair condition and might be able to actually appear in court for his next hearing, scheduled for next month.

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