The trial of San Diego Police Officer Frank White, the officer accused of shooting an Oceanside woman and her 8-year old son, begins Thursday.
Oceanside police have described the incident as road rage. Silva was shot twice in the arm and her son, who was in the passenger seat, was shot in the leg. White maintains that he opened fire because he feared for his life and that of his wife.
Silva was driving under the influence that night, and according to Oceanside police investigators, she first cut in front of White's car, then a few seconds later, started tailgating him.
White pleaded not guilty to a felony charge of gross negligent discharge of a firearm. If convicted, White could face up to nine years in prison.
"We are confident that when a jury hears all the evidence in the case, Frank's actions will be exonerated," White's attorney Rick Pinckard told the North County Times after a pre-trial hearing in 2008.
Silva pleaded guilty to a series of charges in connection with the case including driving under the influence.
San Diego defense attorney Gretchen Von Helms has been closely following the case. "It is extremely rare to have an officer involved shooting result in charges against the officer,"said Von Helms.
Von Helms says the defense team will paint Rachel Silva as an out of control driver, who was drunk. Defense attorneys will try to prove that the officer only fired when he felt he and his wife were in danger, after Silva clipped their car with her car.
"The danger to the police officer was that she was going to take the car and ram him, he didn't know what she was going to do."
Von Helms also speculated that prosecutors will point out that Officer White was in plain clothes. They will also claim the officer and his wife were never in danger because Silva was backing away during the shooting.
"That's what the prosecution is going to hone in on, here is this woman who was yelling and screaming and he starts shooting into the car with a woman who has no weapon and he shoots her and her child,"Von Helms said.