Photo via Wikimedia Commons.
Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

The District Attorney’s Office announced Friday that it won’t pursue the death penalty against one of four defendants charged in the beating death of a USC graduate student from China, who was attacked near the campus last summer.

Prosecutors previously made the same decision about another of the young men. The other two defendants, though charged as adults, cannot face the death penalty because they were under 18 at the time of the crime.

The prosecution’s decision means that Andrew Garcia, 19, would be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole if convicted of the July 24, 2014, attack on Xinran Ji.

Garcia also is charged with one count each of robbery and attempted robbery for an alleged attack on a man and woman at Dockweiler State Beach less than two hours later.

The District Attorney’s Office previously decided against seeking the death penalty for Jonathan Del Carmen, 20.

All four defendants entered not-guilty pleas Friday and were ordered to return to court on Sept. 30 for a pretrial hearing.

Along with murder, Garcia, Del Carmen, Alberto Ochoa, 18, and Alejandra Guerrero, 17, all face a special circumstance allegation that Ji’s murder occurred during an attempted robbery.

Ochoa and Guerrero are also charged in the alleged attack at Dockweiler State Beach.

Ji, a 24-year-old electrical engineering student, was attacked about 12:45 a.m. after walking a woman home from a study group that wrapped up at about 12:30 that morning. He managed to make it back to his fourth-floor apartment, where he was found lifeless in his bed by one of his roommates, who called 911 after he failed to respond when she called out his name.

He died from severe cranial cerebral trauma.

In preliminary hearing testimony, Los Angeles police Detective Paul Shearholdt said Garcia initially denied being in the area of USC, then admitted that he and others were involved in the attack on Ji following a discussion about “flocking” — or robbing — people.

He acknowledged that he punched Ji in the face and said he tried to hit Ji once with a baseball bat but missed, according to the detective, who said the defendant “indicated that Mr. Ji was crying … and speaking in a foreign language.”

The detective noted that Garcia and Ochoa gave varying accounts about the attack on Ji.

The four defendants and another teenage girl allegedly went from the USC area to Dockweiler State Beach, where they are accused of confronting a man and woman who were sitting on the curb talking. The man was struck in the face by a baseball bat.

The woman — who identified both Ochoa and Garcia as the two males who confronted her friend — told investigators that she was confronted by the two females, one of whom got away with some cash that fell out of her purse during a struggle, according to testimony.

Ochoa and Garcia were taken into custody while walking by the nearby Hyperion Treatment Plant after the man they allegedly attempted to rob summoned a patrol car at Dockweiler State Beach. Del Carmen and Guerrero were arrested later that day.

—City News Service

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