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Jurors view Metrolink rail cars in trial

July 9, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
Jurors in the Metrolink derailment trial took a field trip Wednesday to see four of the rail cars involved in the deadly 2005 crash.The panel is deciding the fate of the man convicted of causing the train derailment that killed 11 people and injured more than 180 others.

Click in the Eyewitness News Story Window above to watch John Gregory's report from Glendale.

The jury convicted Juan Manuel Alvarez on June 26 of first-degree murder and one count of arson, along with the special circumstance of multiple murders. Jurors must now decide if Alvarez, now 29, should be sentenced to death or life in prison without the possibility of parole.

"I hope they decide the right way because, you know, 11 lives were lost, and that's a big loss," said Douglas Ross, who witnessed the collision.

Ross watched in disbelief as Alvarez poured gasoline on his car and then drove it onto the train tracks the Los Angeles-Glendale border. A Metrolink train, which was heading south to Union Station, derailed after plowing into Alvarez's Jeep, then crashed into a northbound Metrolink train. The train also struck a Union Pacific freight train locomotive, which wound up on its side.

Alvarez has maintained he was trying to commit suicide when he parked his car on the tracks, but then had a change of heart and couldn't get his car off the tracks in time.

Ross believes Alvarez should get the death penalty for the collision, and so do many family members of the victims.

"He's affected a lot of peoples' lives and he needs to pay with his life, as far as I'm concerned," said Henry Romero, one victim's nephew.

The first two days of the sentencing phase of the trial mainly consisted of emotional testimony from relatives of those killed. Some jurors cried as they listened to the victims' loved ones speak. Some of those family members say their lives have changed forever.

"We're completely different people now," said Nicole Beniquez, one victim's daughter. "We've changed in these past three-and-a-half years. It's unbelievable."

The testimony will likely weigh heavily on the nine women and three men as they view the four wrecked rail cars. The jurors asked the judge to see the wreckage before deciding Juan Manuel Alvarez fate.

The defense in the case is not expected to start presenting its case until Thursday.

 

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