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Judge in Costa trial says all charges stand

July 15, 2011|Daniel Siegal daniel.siegal@latimes.com

The case against the truck driver accused of murder after his runaway semi killed two people in La Cañada Flintridge in April 2009 took a step forward on Friday when Judge Darrell Mavis ruled to sustain all charges.

Costa's attorney, Edward Murphy, filed an 1118.1 motion, which he had submitted to the judge prior to the days’ testimony. The motion stipulates the following: section of the California Penal Code which states:

"At the close of the evidence on either side and before the case is submitted to the jury for decision, shall order the entry of a judgment of acquittal of one or more of the offenses charged in the accusatory pleading if the evidence then before the court is insufficient to sustain a conviction of such offense or offenses on appeal."

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As explained by Murphy, this motion sought to have the charges dismissed due to a lack of evidence that could support a conviction through the appeals process. Murphy had said he hoped to have all the charges, comprising of murder, vehicular manslaughter and reckless driving dismissed.

Although Judge Mavis described Murphy’s motion as an “extensively briefed,” he still found that there was substantial evidence to sustain all of the charges. Mavis highlighted the importance not only of the evidence submitted by Lugo, but the testimony of Juan Palomino, the off-duty firefighter who flagged down Costa prior to the accident. 

The jury did not hear this ruling, but it is now assured that they will have the responsibility of levying a decision on the murder charge when the case concludes.

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