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Jury Sees Videotape of Fatal Accident Scene

May 18, 1989|ESTHER SCHRADER | Times Staff Writer

Jurors in the trial of a man charged with murder for allegedly killing three people while driving drunk in Glendale this week viewed an emotionally wrenching videotape filmed minutes after the fatal accident.

The videotape, shot by an independent newsman who was at the scene of the fatal Christmas season crash, shows one person who died in the collision lying in the middle of the street, two others being taken away in an ambulance, gifts strewn on the pavement and the defendant, Aram Barsumyan, sitting behind the wheel of his mangled car.

Barsumyan, 30, faces three counts of murder and six other felony charges in the Dec. 19, 1987, crash on Los Feliz Boulevard. His trial in Pasadena Superior Court got under way this week.

Head-On Crash

Police say Barsumyan, who was speeding, lost control of his car going over a drainage ditch, swerved into the opposing traffic lane and crashed head-on into a car carrying a family on a holiday shopping trip.

Killed in the crash were Azusa residents Francisco Cruz, 42, his wife, Olga Yolanda Cruz, 31, and Olga's sister, Maria Hernandez, 33, of Los Angeles. The couple's two children were injured in the crash.

The videotape shown to a Pasadena Superior Court jury Tuesday was part of a pile of graphic evidence against Barsumyan. On Monday, jurors were shown a photograph of the speedometer in Barsumyan's car locked at 80 m.p.h. and pictures of the Cruz family's car lying on its side on the sidewalk.

'Reckless Disregard'

The prosecutor in the case, Deputy Dist. Atty. Barbara Murphy, said in her opening statement Monday that she would prove that Barsumyan was driving with reckless disregard for human life and that his actions fit the definition of malice required for a second-degree murder conviction.

Murphy told jurors that Barsumyan was convicted in 1982 of driving under the influence of alcohol. Judge Jack B. Tso had ruled in a pretrial hearing last week that the previous conviction--for which Barsumyan was sentenced to 36 months probation--could be introduced into evidence.

"He knew of the hazards of drinking and driving, but he didn't care," Murphy said.

Barsumyan's attorney, Theodore S. Flier, said he will make his opening statement after the prosecution has completed its case.

Flier said that Barsumyan will testify in his own defense. On Monday, several witnesses testified that before the collision, Barsumyan was weaving through traffic and speeding through red and yellow traffic lights.

Testifying for the prosecution, Onsoon An said she saw Barsumyan's car traveling at more than 80 m.p.h. two to three miles before the accident. An also testified that she saw Barsumyan's blue 1974 Oldsmobile accelerate through two yellow lights.

Says He Ran Red Light

And Stacy Berro, a passenger in a car stopped at a red light a block before the accident scene, testified that he saw Barsumyan's car swerve into a right-turn-only lane and run the red light.

Berro said he lost sight of the Oldsmobile as it traveled over a rise and came upon the accident scene moments later.

Another witness, Thomas P. Clyde, testified that he saw Barsumyan's car hit a dip at the intersection of San Fernando Road and Los Feliz Boulevard about 8:25 p.m., become airborne and hit the 1979 Ford driven by Francisco Cruz.

In lengthy cross-examination of each of the prosecution's witnesses, Flier repeatedly asked if witnesses were sure of what they saw.

Barsumyan also is charged with three counts of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, two counts of driving under the influence of alcohol and causing bodily injury and two counts of driving with an excessive blood alcohol level and causing bodily injury.

Nearly Double the Limit

The percentage of alcohol in his blood was measured after the accident at 0.19%, police said. California law presumes a motorist to be intoxicated at 0.10%.

Barsumyan is being held in Los Angeles County Jail on $500,000 bail. If convicted on any of the murder charges, he could be sentenced to life in prison.

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