The murder case against truck driver Marcos Costa went to the jury Thursday morning after Costa's defense attorney on Wednesday said it wasn’t the truck driver’s fault that two people died in a hideous big-rig accident in 2009, it was “the La Cañada nightmare truck chute’’ that caused the deaths and injuries that day.
“It’s a lousy case. It stinks!’’ Edward Murphy said with a raised voice and reddened face. The jury began deliberating Thursday morning.
In his closing argument, Murphy told the jury responsible for fate that it is preposterous that the 46-year-old pastor of 20 years committed murder or any other crime stemming from the Apr. 1, 2009, crash.
On that day the brakes on Costa’s 18-wheel semi truck failed as he headed south on Angeles Crest Highway, with his 25-ton out-of-control vehicle reaching speeds of 84 mph before bulldozing into several cars and a building on Foothill Boulevard.
Killed instantly were who were attempting to turn north onto the Crest and head home to Palmdale.
“There is a reason for the horrors that happened. Not the imagined insidious criminal intentions of Mr. Costa. The crime is there [was] no truck retardant lane. There [was] no path for runaway trucks. That is the horror of this,’’ Murphy argued in front of his hand-drawn map of the Crest’s straightaway projected onto a screen. He termed it “the La Cañada nightmare truck chute.’’
“The truck is going faster and faster. And if you’ve never been on the road before, you start to panic. What’s that got to do with murder?’’ Murphy asked the jury of 10 men and two women.
Costa is charged with two counts each of second-degree murder and vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence, along with three counts of reckless driving causing injury. If convicted of all charges, he faces 39 years to life in prison.
With the Poscas’ family sitting in the front row, Angelina’s yearbook and a memorial T-shirt of the girl on her mom’s lap, Murphy pointed out Costa is not criminally culpable for the Posca's loss and “terrible sorrow.’’
Geography Is to Blame?
Costa was behind the wheel for 40 minutes. His GPS directed him and co-driver Jose Soares through the Angeles National Forest, Murphy said. Costa did not see the small sign on Angeles Forest Highway that prohibited trucks over three tons–and there’s no evidence to prove that sign was there on Apr. 1, 2009, he added. But there definitely was no sign on Angeles Crest Highway, like the ones erected after Costa’s accident, that forbid hulking car carriers like the one Costa owned.
Murphy reminded the jury that several of the victims and Yanette Posca, the decedents’ widow and mother, have sued the state, the county, CalTrans and the city of La Cañada in civil court. The litigation is pending.
Ultimately, Costa’s overheated brakes failed and left Costa trying to control the massive rig as it raced into a residential area.
“He did drive the truck and kill these people. He killed them in an accident. This was a horrendous accident. He didn’t commit any crimes,’’ Murphy said, leaning into the jury box.
Deputy District Attorney Carolina Lugo, who began her closing Monday, wrapped up her argument Wednesday with a rebuttal that addressed implied malice–Costa’s actions were deliberate and endangered human lives.
Lugo recapped witness testimony that included an off-duty firefighter stopping Costa’s rig on Angeles Forest Highway because the brakes were smoking, and after throwing water on them, Costa kept going. Lugo also referenced a driver who told the court Costa’s rig swerved over the line and nearly hit him.
“This isn’t the Twilight Zone. Do you just get in the car and not look at the surroundings and blindly follow the GPS system? The man had eyes, he had ears he had a nose to smell [burning brakes] he had a rear view mirror.
“The choices he made from beginning to end. That’s what this case is about,’’ she said.
Check back on LCF Patch for full coverage when the verdict comes in.