Jury selection began Tuesday for the trial of an 18- year-old woman who is among four young people charged in the beating death of a USC graduate student from China, who was attacked near the campus on his way home from a study session.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge George G. Lomeli told prospective jurors that Alejandra Guerrero and three other people are charged with murder in connection with the July 24, 2014, attack on Xinran Ji that resulted in his death.
The murder charge includes a special circumstance allegation that the 24- year-old electrical engineering student was murdered during an attempted robbery.
Guerrero — who was 16 at the time — is also charged with one count each of robbery, attempted robbery and assault with a deadly weapon for an alleged attack on a woman and a man at Dockweiler State Beach less than two hours later.
“The defendant maintains that she is absolutely innocent of the charges in question and has entered a plea of not guilty to the charges, and it is the prosecution’s burden to prove her guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. You should be advised that this is not a death penalty matter,” the judge said.
Prospective jurors are due back in court Wednesday as the jury selection process is set to continue.
Guerrero’s co-defendants — Jonathan Del Carmen, 21, Andrew Garcia, 20, and Alberto Ochoa, 19 — are awaiting trial separately in connection with Ji’s killing.
Garcia and Ochoa are also charged with robbery, attempted robbery and assault with a deadly weapon involving the alleged attack at Dockweiler Beach.
Prosecutors have opted not to seek the death penalty against Del Carmen and Garcia. Guerrero and Ochoa could not face the death penalty because they were both under 18 at the time of the crime.
Ji was attacked about 12:45 a.m. after walking a woman home from a study group that wrapped up 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.
Ochoa and Garcia were taken into custody while walking by the Hyperion Treatment Plant after the man they allegedly attempted to rob summoned a patrol car at nearby Dockweiler State Beach. Del Carmen and Guerrero were arrested later that day.
—City News Service
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