’10-shots-of-booze’ defense falls flat

By From page A4 | June 20, 2013

FAIRFIELD — A three-day jury trial with some odd twists for an accused drunken driver ended Wednesday with the judge slamming the defendant.

Halfway through the trial the defendant, James M. Yurkis, 39, disappeared.

Judge Alesia Jones decided to go on with the trial without Yurkis, whose attorney, Denis Honeychurch, stuck around until the end.

“I don’t know what has befallen my client,” Honeychurch told jurors in his closing argument, gesturing toward the empty chair at the defense table.

Yurkis’ absence pretty much gutted any defense case Honeychurch planned to counter the prosecution case about events one night in July 2010. That case included testimony from Fairfield police who described finding Yurkis’ wrecked truck plowed into a wall at his apartment complex before finding Yurkis in his apartment bleeding profusely from a cut on his head.

He said he’d been drinking beer at his apartment and earlier in the evening at Chevy’s but he was vague about how much beer he had downed.

Police said Yurkis reeked of alcohol and a blood-alcohol test after he was arrested reflected his blood-alcohol concentration was 0.23 percent – nearly three times the legal limit.

Honeychurch told jurors his client was not drunk when he wrecked his truck and that he had used alcohol as a painkiller. Honeychurch said it was conceivable that his absent client had downed 10 shots of hard alcohol in the 25 minutes that passed between the wreck and when officers knocked on his apartment door.

Jurors rejected the 10-shot defense and found Yurkis guilty of a pair of misdemeanor charges. It was Yurkis’ second DUI conviction.

Jones sentenced Yurkis to six months of jail time, fined him more than $2,100, ordered him to do 150 hours of community service and to get an ignition interlock device on his truck, and to attend drunken driving classes.

Honeychurch labeled the punishment as retaliation for his client’s disappearance.

Jones ended the trial by issuing a $50,000 warrant for Yurkis’ arrest.

Reach Jess Sullivan at 427-6919 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jsullivandr.

Jess Sullivan

Jess has covered the criminal justice system in Solano County for several years. He was an embedded reporter in Iraq in 2003.

Discussion | 3 comments

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  • Bill of RightsJune 20, 2013 - 6:04 am

    6 months for a 2nd DUI conviction? Well, at least it is time behind bars. Refreshing to see a Solano County Judge handing out a decent form of punishment. And for Honeychurch to add insult to injury by complaining 6 months is harsh and retaliation is a typical defense attorney slime! Thank god this person didn't kill anyone and his actions only effected himself. Well not really because it is us taxpayers who will be footing his bill once he has bee arrested.

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  • CD BrooksJune 20, 2013 - 8:13 am

    Like I always say, DUI laws are nowhere near strict enough. First offense should come with a $10K non-refundable penalty to unlock the cell door with bail and other penalties and fines to follow. That would be a good start. A second offense should carry a mandatory five years prison sentence. Nuff said.

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  • JusticeJune 20, 2013 - 12:22 pm

    Can't do prison for a misdemeanor and if you could the jails would be overflowing and the state would be bankrupt. Close the borders first, then see the crime rate drop

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