Suspect in Train Crash Is Charged With Multiple Murder Counts

In an update on my post yesterday on the LA train crash, I observed, “[I]t would be rather ironic if his aborted suicide attempt netted him the death penalty.” Apparently, it might:

Suspect in Train Crash Is Charged With Multiple Murder Counts (NYT)

Photo: Juan Manuel Alvarez, 25, was accused of causing the derailmentThe Los Angeles County district attorney said today that he would probably seek the death penalty for the suicidal man who abandoned his S.U.V. on a heavily traveled commuter rail track here early Wednesday, causing a violent wreck involving three trains that left at least 11 people dead and nearly 200 injured. The fierce collision at 6:02 a.m. left rail cars toppled and crushed like oversized toys and sparked immediate fears among the police in the Los Angeles area that the derailment was a terrorist act.

The district attorney, Steve Cooley, said prosecutors filed charges late Wednesday against Juan Manuel Alvarez, 25, for 10 counts of murder with “special circumstances,” which makes him eligible for the death penalty. Mr. Cooley said the complaint would be amended to add another count to refer to the 11th victim, found in the wreckage late Wednesday night.


Prosecutors in California can seek the death penalty under one of more than 30 “death-eligible” special circumstances. In this case, the prosecutor told The A.P., the train derailment makes Mr. Alvarez eligible for the gas chamber. But the prosecutor emphasized that Mr. Alvarez’ case was still being evaluated.

A lot will depend on an evaluation of his mental state. But the man killed at least eleven people incidental to the commission of multiple crimes. I don’t expect a jury to be overly sympathetic.

FILED UNDER: Law and the Courts, Policing, , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. McGehee says:

    I have to believe there is a special place in hell for people like this.

  2. Ironically, his action could end up being simply one long prolonged, and successful, suicide attempt.

  3. BigFire says:

    Do we have to ask whether this unthink creature is an actual citizen?

  4. Attila Girl says:

    One hell of an argument against gun control. You put the gun in your mouth. Either you pull the trigger, or you don’t. Either way, no one else dies.

  5. Suicide is always a selfish act. This one just happened to be more selfish than most. That he failed in his attempt makes him even more contemptible (although people would feel mostly the same toward him had he perished in the wreck).

  6. Scott Dillard says:

    We don’t have a gas chamber.

  7. Scott_T says:

    In a sad turn of events, a copycat tries the same thing:

  8. Ralph says:

    One account of events said he parked on the tracks intending to die in a crash, changed his mind, got out of the car, and walked away (leaving the car on the tracks.) This inquiring mind wants to know, why did he not DRIVE away and take the damned car WITH him?