A Los Angeles Superior Court judge Monday let a life prison sentence without the possibility of parole stand for a young woman involved as a 16-year-old in the beating death of a USC graduate student from China.
In December, the California Supreme Court declined to review the case of Alejandra Guerrero, but the appellate court panel did order Los Angeles Superior Court Judge George G. Lomeli to consider “youth-related mitigating factors” — the same ruling it had made in the case of co-defendant Alberto Ochoa, who was 17 at the time of the attack.
A hearing for Ochoa, as well as Jonathan Del Carmen, the 19-year-old getaway driver, is set for Thursday. Guerrero, Ochoa and Del Carmen were convicted along with Andrew Garcia, who was 18 at the time and whose conviction was upheld in a May 2019 ruling, with the California Supreme Court declining to hear the case against him in August 2019.
In September, a three-justice panel from California’s 2nd District Court of Appeal rejected Guerrero’s contention there was insufficient evidence to support the jury’s special circumstance finding of murder during the commission of an attempted robbery involving the July 24, 2014, attack on Xinran Ji.
The appellate court justices noted in their Sept. 15 ruling that Guerrero — armed with a wrench — got out of the car to confront Ji and that she saw co-defendant Ochoa “violently hit Ji with the bat” and that she chased him down and hit him with the wrench while Garcia beat him in the head with a baseball bat.
“The group left the scene as Ji lay covered in blood with a fractured skull,” the justices noted in their ruling.
“Ji managed to get up and return to his nearby apartment, where he died a short time later from his head wounds. The attack was captured on surveillance cameras and played for the jury.”
The appellate court panel noted that “despite all this violence,” it was only when Del Carmen pulled the car away that “Guerrero stopped her attack on Ji and returned to the car, not to go home or to call for help, but to commit additional robberies, again armed with a deadly weapon.”
After the attack on the 24-year-old electrical engineering student, the group drove to Dockweiler Beach, where three of the defendants encountered a man and woman and demanded the couple’s possessions, the panel noted. They were arrested soon afterward.
Deputy District Attorney John McKinney told jurors the victim was targeted because his assailants thought he was an “easy target” who was walking alone in the dark.
In a ruling in August, the state appellate court panel that heard the case involving Guerrero ordered the case against Del Carmen to be sent back to the lower court for further proceedings in which the judge may be asked to throw out Del Carmen’s second-degree murder conviction.
The appellate court panel noted in that ruling that Del Carmen had requested that the judge be directed to immediately vacate his second-degree murder conviction stemming from his guilty plea and to re-sentence him given a change in state law, which eliminated the natural and probable consequences doctrine relating to murder.
The justices ordered the court to hold an evidentiary hearing to determine whether to vacate his murder conviction.
Ji’s killing occurred two years after two other USC graduate students from China were shot to death during an April 2012 robbery as they sat in a car that was double-parked on a street near the USC campus.
Two men — Javier Bolden and Bryan Barnes — were convicted and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the killings of Ying Wu and Ming Qu, who were both 23.
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