Truck driver convicted in crash that killed father, daughter
Vehicular manslaughter, reckless driving
PASADENA, Calif.—A big-rig driver was convicted today of involuntary manslaughter for piloting an out-of-control truck down a mountainous road and into a La Canada Flintridge intersection, causing a crash that killed a 12-year-old girl and her father.
Marcos Costa, 46, had been charged with two counts of second-degree murder, but jurors acquitted him of those charges and instead convicted him of the lesser counts of involuntary manslaughter. The 10-man, two-woman panel also convicted him of two counts of vehicular manslaughter and three counts of reckless driving causing injury stemming from the April 1, 2009, crash at Angeles Crest Highway and Foothill Boulevard.
A sentencing date was not immediately set.
Costa’s double-decker, car-hauling rig plowed through the intersection, striking several vehicles and slamming into a cafe/bookstore.
One of the vehicles he hit was carrying 12-year-old Angelina Posca and her 58-year-old father, Angel Jorge Posca, of Palmdale. Both died at the scene.
Deputy District Attorney Carolina Lugo told jurors during her closing argument that Costa ignored repeated warnings—including one from an off-duty firefighter who flagged him down—that the brakes of his truck were failing as he traveled along the mountain road leading into La Canada Flintridge. She said he should have turned around and taken a safer route.
Instead, Costa continued driving “with a conscious disregard for human life.”"
“So did the defendant know the act was dangerous? Yes,” Lugo said.
She dismissed Costa’s contention that the crash was simply an accident, saying he should have taken more care with the rig. Otherwise, she said, “you turn this big rig into a death rig.”
Lugo insisted that Costa should have been able to see smoke billowing from his brakes and heeded the firefighter’s warning to turn the rig around.
She said the truck was “screaming at him, `You don’t belong here.’ The smell (of the brakes) is telling him that too.”
“No, this was not just an accident ... not a case where everything was going fine,” she told jurors, telling jurors the truck was a “25-ton lethal weapon,” Lugo said.
Defense attorney Edward Murphy countered that “in this case, there’s no evidence that he (Costa) committed a crime.” He blamed the tragedy on a combination of “insidious” geography and the lack of a runaway truck ramp on Angeles Crest Highway.
Murphy told the jury that Costa’s truck and its brakes were working properly throughout the drive until he reached the last mile and a half of the highway.
“It was insidious because when you start coasting, you are still in the forest, so to speak,” he said. “... It’s not fast at first ... it’s not real steep either at first.”
But as Costa continued down the road he started seeing more houses and traffic, and the truck kept going faster and faster, with nowhere to pull off the road or stop a runaway vehicle, the attorney said.
“The horror of the situation as you’re barreling down is that there is no way to stop the truck,” Murphy said.
“This is the reason for the accident.”
The combination of the highway layout and the lack of a truck ramp “was a major factor” in causing the wreck, which Murphy called “a terrible tragedy.”
“That was, I submit to you, the reason that these tragedies happened, not some imagined criminal intentions,” Murphy said. “... Mr. Costa didn’t commit any crimes at all.”
Jurors began deliberating July 21. On Thursday, they sent the judge a roughly two-page note asking for guidance on issues relating to legal definitions of “great bodily injury” attached to two of the charges and differences between criminal negligence and gross negligence.
Pasadena Superior Court Judge Darrell Mavis told the panel he could not offer them much help, saying they needed to rely on jury instructions.
“Unfortunately, the assistance the court can provide is very limited,” he said.
The judge suggested that jurors consider shaking up their deliberation method in hopes of breaking the deadlock. After about three more hours of deliberations, the panel reached a verdict.
By Terri Vermeulen Keith | City News Service
LOS ANGELES, Calif.—Los Angeles is America’s second-worst driving city when it comes to frequency of vehicle crashes, according to Allstate Insurance Co.’s annual Best Driver’s Report released today.
Los Angeles drivers as a whole average a crash every 6.6 years, a figure that nationally trails only Philadelphia drivers at 6.5 years, according to Allstate.
The Inglewood Police Department recently completed its final assessment of crime statistics for 2010. Overall reported crimes in the past year were the lowest in 32 years. The total represents a 14 percent decrease compared to 2009.
The 2010 crime statistics show a reduction in almost every category compared to 2009. Overall, violent crime decreased by 19 percent, with a 26 percent decrease in homicides and 21 percent reduction in robberies. Property crimes decreased 12 percent, with an 8 percent decrease in burglaries and 17 percent reduction in larcenies.
Keller Williams Realty, in conjunction with Palmdale and the Antelope Valley Mall, announced the results of their recent Red Day events.
Between their food drive and Red Day Walk, the groups raised $12,645 in cash and more than 10,000 pounds of food for local charities including South Antelope Valley Emergency Services (SAVES), Grace Resources, the WAVE Foundation and the American Cancer Society.
SANTA CLARITA, Calif. — Peter Sagan of Slovakia sprinted past Australian Michael Matthews to win today’s third stage of the Tour of California, the nation’s largest cycling event.
Sagan completed the 110.3-mile stage from Palmdale to Santa Clarita in four hours, 20 minutes, 31 seconds. Each of the next 99 cyclists were credited with the same time.
“The last three kilometers were crazy with all the sprinters who wanted to win,” Sagan said.
PALMDALE, Calif. — The eighth edition of the Tour of California begins two days of racing in Los Angeles County today with a 110.3-mile stage from Palmdale to Santa Clarita.
The 121 cyclists will leave from Marie Kerr Park at 11:20 a.m. for a stage that will feature racing through the hills north of Santa Clarita along San Francisquito Canyon and a 22-mile climb up Lake Hughes Road, followed by a gradual 18-mile descent down Spunky Canyon and Bouquet Road.