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Man sentenced for 2011 police-chase death

59 years to life for second death at hands of Eric Anthony Banford

An East Palo Alto man who killed a motorcyclist in a head-on crash while fleeing police has received a prison sentence that will not make him eligible for parole until he is 105 years old, the San Mateo County District Attorney's office said.

Eric Anthony Banford 48, received a 59-year-to-life sentence on Friday, Nov. 1, for the death of Danny Dixon, 50, of East Palo Alto. Banford was arrested on Sept. 28, 2011, after fleeing police investigating a 5:15 a.m. burglary. He was walking on the street when police attempted to question him, but he jumped into a friend's Land Rover and drove off at high speed with two friends inside, according to the DA's office.

Police pursued the Land Rover, which sped at up to 70 miles per hour. Banford drove with his lights off and sped through stop signs and red lights. The passengers yelled at him to stop, but Banford refused. During the chase, he lit a crack pipe, the DA's office said.

Banford continued at high speed down University Avenue, driving eastbound in the westbound lane. Near Bay Road, he swerved to avoid an oncoming truck and struck Dixon, who was in the adjacent lane. Banford continued driving for 25 yards, then abandoned the vehicle and ran. He was apprehended at 1640 Bay Road.

A jury convicted him on July 24 of second degree murder, vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence, felony evading causing death, and felony hit and run involving death.

San Mateo County Superior Court Judge Beth Freeman denied defense motions for a new trial, to dismiss the case and to reduce the murder conviction to involuntary manslaughter. She found no room for leniency in sentencing Banford, she said.

Banford was convicted of manslaughter in 1991, and of robbery in 1987, San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said. In the 1991 case, Banford was convicted of voluntary manslaughter for fatally punching a victim in the head during a drug robbery. That conviction was reduced from a murder charge.

Dixon's wife and friend were present during the sentencing, and a letter from the wife was read to the judge. Banford chose not to speak at sentencing, but his sister spoke on his behalf.

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