Jury Decides Against Death Penalty in Metrolink Train Crash

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A Los Angeles jury on Tuesday decided against the death penalty for the man it convicted of murder in a fatal Metrolink train crash three years ago. The crash killed 11 people and injured 180. KPCC's Frank Stoltze reports.

Frank Stoltze: One juror expressed sympathy for Juan Alvarez, a suicidal methamphetamine addict whose father beat him as a child.

Juror One: You're a product of your environment, you know. And I think he was shortchanged.

Stoltze: When they argued for the death penalty, prosecutors described Alvarez as a selfish man who had doused his SUV in gasoline and parked it on the Metrolink tracks to gain attention from his wife, whom he believed was cheating on him. But this juror believed Alvarez never intended to kill anyone.

Juror Two: You know, he was reckless, he is a dangerous man, but I don't think he had any intention.

Stoltze: The jurors, who spoke with reporters after they recommended life without parole for Alvarez, declined to tell their names.

Leticia Ayala (in Spanish): I thank God for letting him live. I feel sorry for those who died.

Stoltze: Alvarez' mother thanked god for letting her son live and said she felt sorry for the people who had died. Todd McKeown lost his brother in the crash. He said he respected the jury's decision, even though he had wanted them to give Alvarez the death penalty.

Todd McKeown: It's a closure, it's an answer, its finality to this part of the process at least. And it gives me an opportunity to start trying to put my life back together, which has been pretty well torn apart by this whole process.

Stoltze: Formal sentencing is scheduled for August 20th.