Prosecutors: Driver negligent in farmers market deaths

first_img AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORESurfer attacked by shark near Channel Islands calls rescue a ‘Christmas miracle’The prosecution alleged Weller, a retired food broker, was negligent in the operation of his car and indifferent to the carnage he caused. The defense called several experts to testify Weller was in a frozen and panicked state after confusing the two pedals. Ambrose quoted several witnesses who said Weller appeared in control of his car and deliberately avoided parked cars to avoid injury to himself. Ambrose said Weller aimed for “soft objects.” “He could see, he could steer, he could stop,” Ambrose said. Weller’s attorney, Mark Overland, disputed that Weller had any control of his car and reasserted the claim that the incident was an unfortunate error compounded by Weller’s panicked reaction. “None of us goes through life without making a mistake. The fact that a mistake has been made doesn’t mean negligence,” Overland said. The elderly man whose car roared through a farmers market in 2003 had multiple opportunities to stop or steer away from pedestrians and was indifferent after hitting more than 70 people and killing 10, a prosecutor said in closing arguments Thursday. Deputy District Attorney Ann Ambrose urged jurors not to accept George Russell Weller’s claim that he mistook the car’s accelerator for the brake. As she showed pictures of bloodied and mangled bodies, Ambrose derided the claim by saying “oops.” “Those people’s lives were not an `oops,”‘ Ambrose said. “They had a right to walk the streets and assume someone behind a car would take caution and care.” Weller, 89, has been charged with 10 counts of gross negligent vehicular manslaughter and faces up to 18 years in prison if convicted. Overland also challenged the reliability of witnesses’ memories three years after the accident. He pointed out inconsistencies about how fast and where Weller was driving, and what he said when the car finally stopped. Prosecutors had called a witness who claimed Weller said: “You saw me coming, why didn’t you get out of my way?” But Overland said none of the other witnesses near Weller reported him saying that. The only consistent testimony was that Weller appeared to be in a trance as he plowed through the market, Overland said. Authorities said Weller’s 1992 Buick Le Sabre traveled 300 yards through the open-air market in Santa Monica, reaching speeds of 60 mph as it hit food stalls and people before coming to a halt with one victim on the hood and another tangled underneath. Those killed ranged in age from 7 months to 78 years. In a tape of a police interview played at trial, Weller told investigators he did everything he could to halt the vehicle and had no idea why it wouldn’t stop. “But I’m deeply sorry for any pain that everyone went through. It was my fault,” he said. Prosecutors said Weller had more than enough time to realize and correct the problem. His hands remained on the steering wheel, and prosecutors said Weller looked straight ahead during the 20-second incident. Prosecutors do not allege Weller intended to kill but that he was negligent for failing to stop after getting into a minor collision just before entering the farmers market. Weller has not been in court since opening statements.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img

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