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Matador Ortega Cano sentenced to jail for fatal car crash

Judge throws out blood sample as evidence; defense lawyers seek annulment of verdict

Javier Martín-Arroyo
José Ortega Cano, pictured at an earlier date during his trial in Seville.
José Ortega Cano, pictured at an earlier date during his trial in Seville.julián rojas

Bullfighter José María Ortega Cano has been sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison for causing the death of a motorist on the night of May 28, 2011.

Ortega Cano was driving home near his Castilblanco de los Arroyos ranch in Seville province when his Mercedes crashed head-on into the Seat Altea of Carlos Parra Castillo, killing the 48-year-old instantly. The Civil Guard reported that the Murcia-born bullfighter was driving under the influence and traveling at 125kmp/h on a road with a speed limit of 90kmp/h.

Ortega Cano was also seriously injured and spent some six weeks in the hospital. As soon as was admitted to the Virgen Macarena hospital in Seville, a blood sample was taken that showed he was two-and-a-half times over the legal limit. But the judge annulled the toxicological evidence due to the chain of custody having been compromised. “It was not possible to confirm that the sample examined by the National Toxicology Institute corresponds to that given by the accused when he was admitted to hospital,” the report read.

The 59-year-old bullfighter, who rose to fame in the 1980s, was not in court in Seville to hear the sentence, which he intends to appeal. Ortega Cano was also ordered to pay a total of 181,122 euros in compensation to the family of Parra Castillo.

He admitted to “wetting his lips” on a glass of sparkling wine at a restaurant

The bullfighter’s defense attorney, Enrique Trebolle, was in court to hear the ruling, as were lawyers acting for the Parra Castillo family, who said they would also be appealing against what they considered an excessively light sentence. Trebolle called for the sentence to be quashed in view of the annulment of the blood sample as evidence.

Ortega Cano testified during the trial that he had suffered from a “dizzy turn or fainting fit” connected to his arrhythmia; that he had respected traffic signals; was driving within the speed limit; and had drunk two coca-colas before the crash. The matador did, however, admit to “wetting his lips” on a glass of sparkling wine at a restaurant.

Ortega Cano also told the court that due to his heart condition and prescription medicine he was taking he was prohibited from drinking alcohol, which he said was “poison” to him.

In his final words to the judge, Ortega Cano said that the accident had been the “worst incident of my life” and that he felt a great sense of pain over the death of Parra Castillo. “For my health and my life, I am not supposed to drink and I did not drink on the day of the accident. Let God’s will be done and let justice rule,” he said.

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