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Keene murder trial ending

Closing statements finished; jury decision pending

Posted: October 12, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Updated: October 12, 2012 2:00 a.m.

LANCASTER — The case against an Agua Dulce man accused of murder for allegedly running down and killing his neighbor while driving drunk was handed over to jurors Thursday.

Dennis Keene, 64, charged with murder and drunken driving in the 2011 crash that killed 55-year-old Lori Lindlief on Aug. 13, 2011, was led handcuffed by a sheriff’s deputy into Antelope Valley Superior Court Thursday for closing arguments delivered in his case.

It was standing room only as the courtroom filled beyond seating capacity.

Superior Court Judge Bernie LaForteza turned away spectators standing at the back of his courtroom.

Sitting motionless, his thinning gray hair combed neatly back to the collar of his green tweed-like jacket, Keene watched Deputy District Attorney Susan Choi sum up her case against him.

She told the six men and six women of the jury it was her job to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Keene was guilty of murder and, specifically, that he acted with implied malice, meaning he knew drinking and driving could kill someone.

Using an overhead projector, Choi showed the jury a list of seven dates between 1973 and 2000.

“Mr. Keene was arrested and charged with drunk driving on each of theses dates, each time he made the decision to get behind the wheel of a car,” she said.

One of those drunken driving incidents, on Sept. 16, 1999, resulted in a traffic collision, Choi said.

“This DUI is enough to put someone on notice as to how dangerous drinking and driving is,” she said.

Because Keene was ordered by the court to attend an 18-month alcohol program about drunken driving after the 1999 crash, Keene knows how dangerous it is to drive while intoxicated, she said.

“The message to any person is — this is a bad thing. Do not do it again. It is a danger. It is a homicide waiting to happen,” she said.

That day happened Aug, 13, 2011, when Lindlief was killed, Choi said.

Naming the witnesses Choi called in the past two weeks, she told the jury Keene drank five Miller Lite beers on that day while playing golf, then drank drinks of Dr Pepper and Captain Morgan rum while playing poker and drank another one of those at a restaurant in Agua Dulce.

“He made a bad decision that day when he woke up and decided to drive himself to the (Valencia) Country Club, knowing he would have to drive home,” she said.

When it was his turn to speak, Keene’s defense lawyer, James Bates, told the jury, “There’s something wrong with this case.

“This was a tragic accident but it was not murder,” he said.

About his client’s drinking, he said: “The evidence shows he was pacing himself at the club.”

Bates reminded jurors of the witnesses he called whom he said testified his client did not appear intoxicated.

“Even veteran Santa Monica police officer Dean Oshir, who has charged 72 people in his career with impaired driving, even he said Mr. Keene was ‘good to go’ and did not appear intoxicated.”

Bates reminded them also of the bottle of rum found in Keene’s truck.

“He had just been through a traumatic situation,” Bates said of Keene’s truck’s collision with Lindlief, who was walking her dogs on an Agua Dulce street when she was hit. “That would explain drinking after the accident.”

Bates said his client experienced “post traumatic stress” which, according to the witness he called, leaves the sufferer “confused and disoriented ... the very thing you don’t need when you’re doing a sobriety test.”

Jurors received the case Thursday afternoon.



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