A Pima County jury has cleared the Pima County Sheriff's Department of any wrongdoing in the April 2011 death of a Tucson motorist, instead assigning 100 percent blame to a criminal who fled from deputies and ran into him.
The jury deliberated just under two hours before entering a judgment of $393,421 against Patrick Gutierrez late Wednesday afternoon, said Deputy Pima County Attorney Nancy Davis.
On April 1, 2011, Joseph Marques and his wife, Edith "Lynn" Marques, had just returned to Tucson from visiting Legoland in Carlsbad, Calif., with their 9-year-old grandson, whom they had adopted.
As the Marqueses were driving to their Catalina Foothills home, Gutierrez, a mentally ill drug addict, stole items from a Walgreens to sell and buy more drugs, according to court documents. He struck a clerk with a bottle of laundry detergent and then fled in his car.
Gutierrez ran a red light at La Cañada Drive and Ina Road and hit the driver's side of the Marques vehicle at 48 mph. The Marqueses' vehicle continued through the intersection, hit another car and then hit the garage of a house, causing it to collapse.
Gutierrez stopped his car farther down the road, ran away and was caught.
Joseph Marques, 73, suffered fatal injuries and died several days later.
Lynn Marques and her 11 children filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against the Pima County Sheriff's Department as a result her husband's death.
Last week, Marques' attorney, James Abraham, told jurors during opening statements that Joseph Marques died because deputies violated a department policy that the safety of the public must take a priority over the arrest of a suspect.
In this case, Abraham said, deputies repeatedly refused to stop chasing a mere shoplifter.
Davis told jurors the deputies were not pursuing Gutierrez that afternoon, but rather were following him. She also described Gutierrez as a "robber," not a shoplifter.
When Gutierrez stopped at a stop sign, there was no way Lt. Scott Martin could have predicted how Gutierrez was going to react when Martin turned his lights on, Davis said.
Gutierrez ran the red light eight seconds later, Davis said.
Gutierrez, 45, was sentenced to 18 years in prison in September after pleading guilty to second-degree murder, robbery and two counts of endangerment.
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