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State appeals court rejects man’s bid for resentencing


Convicted of deadly DUI in Lancaster

A state appeals court panel rejected a re-sentencing bid for a man convicted of a drunken driving crash in Lancaster that killed two young men on their way home from work more than a decade ago.

The three-justice panel from California’s 2nd District Court of Appeal agreed with a Superior Court judge’s ruling that Tommie Lee Cole was ineligible for relief under a change in state law that affects defendants in some murder cases.

Cole, now 35, was sentenced to 30 years to life after being found guilty of two counts of second-degree murder stemming from the Feb. 26, 2012, crash that killed Beau Josh Owen Fluker and Jeffrey Daniel Gilstrap.

Fluker, 26, and Gilstrap, 23, were traveling home after working late shifts at a Lancaster Walmart store when their vehicle was broadsided at the intersection of Avenue J and 20th Street West just before 2:30 a.m. and came to rest atop a fire hydrant.

Cole — who was arrested for DUI in 2009 and attended an alcohol program for six months — had signed an acknowledgement that outlined the dangers of drinking and driving, including the possibility that he could be charged with murder if he killed someone while driving under the influence of alcohol. In a January 2016 ruling, a separate appellate court panel rejected the defense’s contention that there was insufficient evidence to support his conviction on the murder charges.

“Defendant’s prior drunk driving offense, his blood-alcohol level and decision to drive while intoxicated, and his highly dangerous acts of speeding and attempting to ‘beat’ a yellow light are substantial evidence to support the jury’s conclusion that the subjective standard for implied malice was satisfied,” that appellate court panel noted in the January 2016 ruling.

Along with second-degree murder, Cole was convicted in February 2014 of two counts each of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated and one count each of driving under the influence and driving with a 0.08 percent blood alcohol content.