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Crash trial jury is selected

April 16, 2008|By Jeremy Oberstein

Attorneys in the case have finally agreed on the 12; nine men and three women — with six alternates.

LOS ANGELES — Nine men, three women and six alternates were chosen to serve on a jury that will decide the fate of Juan Manuel Alvarez, whose capitol murder trial is expected to begin April 28.

Alvarez faces 11 counts of murder with special circumstances and one count each of train wrecking and arson in connection with a January 2005 collision that left 11 dead and more than 180 injured.

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In the early morning hours of Jan. 26, 2005, Alvarez parked his Jeep Cherokee on Metrolink train tracks that straddle the border of Glendale and Los Angeles in what his attorneys claim was an attempt at ending his life.

The southbound Metrolink train No. 100 smashed into the SUV, derailed and rammed a parked Union Pacific train before colliding with northbound train No. 901 in what officials called the worst crash in Metrolink history.

During jury selection on Tuesday and Wednesday, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge William S. Pounders, along with defense and prosecution attorneys, peppered prospective jurors with questions about their ability to discern between what they believe to be truthful or false testimony — what Pounders called “looking beyond the oath” — their feelings about the death penalty and the burden of proof they will be asked to consider.

The high-profile trial is set to start after attorneys complete evidence gathering and sharing next week in anticipation of opening statements.

The 12 jurors and six alternates include a range of ethnicities, jury experience and viewpoints about the death penalty and reflect the motivations of attorneys who sought to seat a jury that represents the diversity of the city in which the case will be tried.

“I’m very pleased with the jury,” defense attorney Michael Belter said. “We have some very open-minded individuals who seem willing to participate.”

Pounders warned alternate jurors on Wednesday that they need to be ready at any point should one of the main jurors need to leave the trial.

“You got to be ready to go and make decisions,” he said.

Pounders will randomly assign alternate jurors a number, one through six, before the trial begins, which would determine the order in which they would step in should a juror be dismissed.

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