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Truck driver with failed brakes appeals conviction in two deaths

December 26, 2012 |  2:14 pm

Marcos CostaThe truck driver convicted of manslaughter after a fatal 2009 collision on Angeles Crest Highway in La Cañada Flintridge is taking his case to an appeals court.

Marcos Costa, 46, was sentenced to seven years and four months in prison after his 2011 conviction in the deaths of Palmdale resident Angel Posca, 58, and his 12-year-old daughter, Angelina. His case will be heard by California’s 2nd District Court of Appeal on Jan. 29.

Angel Posca was driving through the intersection of Angeles Crest Highway and Foothill Boulevard on July 1, 2009, when Costa’s truck, which had lost its brakes, barreled down Angeles Crest and slammed into the car before striking a building.

At trial, prosecutors provided evidence that Costa had failed to check his brakes or take into account a warning about the difficulties of driving a big rig on Angeles Crest Highway.

In papers filed with the appellate court, an attorney for Costa said that he checked his brakes regularly and that the crash was the result of unforeseeable mechanical failure, not negligence.

“I think that’s what’s lost sometimes in the grief of losing two people is that this was just a tragic accident,” said Sally Brajevich, appointed to represent Costa in his appeal.

Brajevich argued in court papers that Costa didn’t have the experience and training necessary to know his actions were likely to result in harming another person. She also contended the crash could have been avoided if Caltrans had kept a truck escape lane open on the highway.

The jury heard similar arguments, but Brajevich said that the court of appeal would weigh the evidence differently.

“It’s not a retrial, but the court does look at things again,” she said.

In response, the state attorney general’s office said there is substantial evidence that Costa knew he was taking a risk when he took Big Tujunga Canyon Road to Angeles Crest Highway to reach Los Angeles from the Antelope Valley.

Costa was warned about the curvy and steep road by off-duty firefighter Juan Palomino, who testified that he flagged Costa down to tell him that his brakes were smoking and that he should use the 14 Freeway.

According to prosecutors, Costa saw that his brakes were smoking but poured water on them rather than wait for them to cool.


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-- Daniel Siegal, Times Community News

Photo: Marcos Costa.  Credit: Kirk McCoy / Los Angeles Times