A Santa Rosa woman convicted in a road-rage death that happened as she raced her boyfriend along city streets asked a judge Tuesday for a new trial, alleging her first lawyer was incompetent.
Heather Howell, 30, was convicted of reckless driving and gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated in the July 2012 crash that killed another motorist, Jesse Garcia, 56, also of Santa Rosa. Jurors deadlocked 9-3 in favor of conviction on a more serious, second-degree murder allegation.
She faces 10 years in prison.
Prosecutors have since announced they would retry Howell on murder, exposing her to 15 years to life in prison. The trial is set for May 9.
But Chief Deputy Public Defender Kristine Burk said Howell received ineffective representation from her first lawyer, Steve Spiegelman of Santa Rosa. She asked that Howell get another trial on all the charges.
She filed a 30-page new-trial motion alleging that, among other things, Spiegelman failed to impeach prosecution witnesses, allowed evidence that should have been deemed inadmissible and did not ask jurors to consider a heat-of-passion defense.
A hearing on her motion is set for April 28.
Police testified Howell was in a fight with her boyfriend, Tony Kraus, at her Hartman Lane home just before the deadly crash. Kraus took off on his motorcycle and Howell chased him in her car, weaving through Fulton Road traffic and running stop lights. A witness testified Howell shook her fist out her window and yelled, “Yee-haw!” during the pursuit.
The two continued after each other on Hall Road, where Howell slammed into the back of Garcia's Triumph convertible while attempting to pass him on the shoulder. His car flipped and burst into flames.