LOS ANGELES – An attorney for the man accused of causing a commuter train collision that killed 11 people urged the public not to rush to judgment against his client.
"Emotions are running high right now and I'm sensing a mentality out there I almost want to call a lynch-mob mentality," attorney Eric Chase (search) said after a brief hearing Friday in which an arraignment for Juan Manuel Alvarez (search) was delayed until Feb. 15.
"I'm hoping that things calms down a little bit in the days to come and the people who are making the decisions about Mr. Alvarez's life, about the death penalty in the case ... just take a step back and think about the consequences of their actions."
Prosecutors on Friday filed an 11th murder charge against Alvarez, 25, who could face the death penalty. They have not said what punishment they will seek.
The hearing for Alvarez was postponed to allow time for Chase to get opinions from medical experts on Alvarez's state of mind. Alvarez, who also apparently tried to slash his wrists and stab himself after the wreck, was brought to court in what appeared to be a hospital smock, and had bandages on his wrists.
Standing in shackles, his head tipped forward and his eyes downcast, Alvarez responded "Yes, sir," when asked by Superior Court Commissioner Dennis Mulcahy if he agreed to the delay of the arraignment.
Authorities say Alvarez caused the wreck early Wednesday by driving a sport utility vehicle onto the tracks, then changed his mind and left the vehicle. The SUV was struck by one train, which derailed and hit the second train. Eleven people died and nearly 200 were injured.
The Glendale police chief described Alvarez earlier in the week as "deranged."
Meanwhile, in Arkansas, a man with a history of mental illness stopped a car on the tracks and stepped away just before a freight train barreled into it, police said. The car was demolished, but no one was hurt in the collision Thursday.
That case follows an incident Thursday in Southern California in which a man who parked his SUV on tracks was arrested for investigation of evading a police officer. Irvine police said the man drove off when police spotted him and, after a chase, a dispatcher talked him out of suicide during a cell phone call.