A state appeals court panel is set next month to hear oral arguments in the case of a trucker who was behind the wheel of a runaway big rig that plowed down a mountain road and into a La Canada Flintridge intersection, killing a 12-year-old Palmdale girl and her father.
The three-justice panel from California's 2nd District Court of Appeal is scheduled to hear attorneys' oral arguments on January 29 in the case of Marcos Costa, who was convicted in July of 2011 of two counts each of involuntary manslaughter and gross vehicular manslaughter in connection with the deaths of Angelina Posca and her father, Angel Jorge Posca.
Costa was also convicted of three counts of reckless driving causing injury. Three other people were injured in the April 1, 2009, crash at Angeles Crest Highway and Foothill Boulevard.
The Pasadena Superior Court jury acquitted Costa of two counts of second- degree murder.
The Brazilian native was sentenced in September 2011 to seven years and four months in prison.
"It is simply a horrible tragedy," Pasadena Superior Court Judge Darrell Mavis said in sentencing Costa, noting that the trucker had been "trying to provide for his family" and had been "living a very upstanding life" without any prior criminal record before the deadly crash.
But the judge cited the "nature" and "seriousness of the crime" in imposing the state prison term.
Costa's double-decker, car-hauling rig plowed through the intersection at Angeles Crest Highway and Foothill Boulevard, striking several vehicles and slamming into a cafe/bookstore.
At his sentencing, Costa apologized to the Posca family, turning to face them in court.
"I want to ask the family and the friends to forgive me," he said through a Portuguese interpreter.
He told the victims' family that he has prayed every day for them and spent his life trying to help the community through his work as a minister, but said he has nightmares and thinks about seeing the 58-year-old man's face before the deadly crash.
In her closing argument, Deputy District Attorney Carolina Lugo told jurors that Costa ignored repeated warnings -- including one from an off-duty firefighter who flagged him down -- that the brakes of his truck were failing as he traveled along the mountain road leading into La Canada Flintridge. She said he should have turned around and taken a safer route.
Instead, Costa continued driving "with a conscious disregard for human life," the prosecutor said.
Defense attorney Edward Murphy argued during the trial that there was no evidence Costa had committed a crime. He blamed the tragedy on "insiduous" topography and the absence of a runaway truck ramp on Angeles Crest Highway.
Murphy told jurors that Costa's truck and its brakes were working properly until he reached the last mile and a half of the highway.