Jurors wrestling with whether a driver whose out-of-control car sent a concrete garbage can fatally flying into a 67-year-old San Mateo pedestrian convicted him of felony hit-and-run for fleeing the scene with his 5-year-old child but deadlocked on two other charges.
Josue Vicente Lopez, 28, was also charged with gross vehicular manslaughter and misdemeanor child endangerment. Jurors deadlocked 10-2 on the first and 9-3 on the second count, both in favor of acquittal.
Prosecutors will announce July 23 if they will retry Lopez on the two charges. District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said his office must strongly weigh where the jury was leaning.
“When we have a jury of members of our community split so badly against conviction that tells us very strongly that they did not find this a strong prosecution case,” Wagstaffe said.
He added that Lopez is still a convicted felon because of the hit-and-run charge. He faces up to three years in prison.
Defense attorney John Elworth said he was not surprised at the split in favor of the defense because he never felt there was evidence of gross negligence.
The family of Reynaldo Aguiniga who died in the Nov. 24, 2012, incident was very emotional, Wagstaffe said.
“To them this was fatal collision. For the defendant, it was an accident,” said Wagstaffe.
The accident happened on the 1700 block of South Delaware Street after the driver of a green 1994 Chevrolet Camaro later identified as Lopez reportedly lost control of the vehicle while speeding out of the Kmart parking lot. The car reportedly jumped the curb, went onto the sidewalk and into a cement garbage container that dislodged and hit Aguiniga. Authorities say Lopez checked on Aguiniga after the crash but fled the scene in his car with his 5-year-old child. Responding police officers found Aguiniga pinned between the can and tree near a bus stop. Aguiniga later died at the hospital.
Lopez told police he left the scene because he was concerned that his son would be caught in deportation proceedings and wanted to take him home first, Elworth said.
Lopez did not testify on his own behalf during the week-long trial. Elworth said the process has been “stressful” for everyone involved and his client had told police after arrest that “he felt terrible about the whole thing.”
Jurors first indicated they were deadlocked at the end of Wednesday’s deliberations but Judge Lisa Novak had them return the next morning to try again. By 10:30 a.m., the jury announced it was hopelessly deadlocked.
Lopez remains in custody on $250,000 bail.
(650) 344-5200 ext. 102