LOS ANGELES – A cry of anguish rang from a victim's relative as a prosecutor implored jurors on Monday to recommend the death penalty for a man who caused a deadly train derailment.
Deputy District Attorney Cathryn Brougham said justice will not be served unless Juan Alvarez is sentenced to die after being convicted of 11 counts of first-degree murder in the 2005 calamity in which a Metrolink train derailed and smashed into another commuter train in suburban Glendale.
The crash left 180 people injured.
Brougham's remarks came at the start of the penalty phase of the proceedings attended by family members and friends of the victims.
Alvarez, 29, testified during the trial that he drove his SUV onto the train tracks and planned to be sitting inside when the train hit. But he said he changed his mind at the last minute and was unable to move the vehicle before he abandoned it.
Brougham told jurors Alvarez was concerned about no one but himself when he doused his SUV with gasoline and left it on the train tracks.
"He was on a mission," she said. "He wanted to do something big."
She had said during the trial that Alvarez was seeking to impress his estranged wife and actually had thoughts of killing her as well.
"He told you himself he had homicidal thoughts that morning," Brougham told jurors Monday. "It's not an accident that these people were murdered by him. ... They were innocent, helpless, defenseless victims."
Brougham gave jurors profiles of each of the 11 people who died, saying family members and friends would speak about the emptiness in their lives since the losses of their loved ones.
Alvarez showed no reaction as the prosecutor spoke. His lawyers said they would reserve their opening statements until after the prosecution presented its case for the death penalty.
Prosecutors plan to call a parade of survivors.
Brougham predicted for jurors that lawyers for Alvarez would claim he was an emotionally disturbed drug addict who has suffered abuse in his childhood.