A third man connected to the brutal beating and death of a USC engineering student, Xinran Ji (24), pleaded guilty last week to murder. Jonathan Del Carmen (22), pled to second-degree murder and is facing a sentence of15 to life in prison.
Alejandra Guerrero (19) and Andrew Garcia (21) were previously convicted of the killing. Garcia was sentenced to life without parole. Guerrero, who was 16 at the time of the murder, also faces a sentence of life without the possibility of parole. A fourth man, Alberto Ochoa, had his case transferred to the juvenile system where it is pending.
Prosecutors never sought the death penalty against Garcia or Del Carmen. Guerrero and Ochoa could not face the death penalty because they were both under 18 at the time of the crime.
Prosecutors had argued that Del Carmen drove the car to the scene, and once the group spotted Ji, Garcia, Guerrero and Ochoa “immediately accosted” Ji “in full view” of a nearby surveillance camera. “Mr. Ji took about three or four blows,” the prosecutor said.
The prosecutors maintained that Garcia took a bat from Ochoa and starting beating Ji—“The beating doesn’t stop. It’s just relentless,” prosecutors said.
Garcia and Guerrero ran from the scene and were picked up shortly after that by Del Carmen. Ji did not immediately die from the beating. He stumbled to his apartment where he collapsed. One of his roommates discovered his body lifeless in his bed.
After the brutal attack on Ji, the four attacked another man and woman in an attempt to take their car keys. The man, who was also attacked with a bat, was able to alert a nearby police officer and was able to identify his attackers. Garcia and Ochoa were taken into custody early that morning, according to the prosecutor.
OUR FREE OPINION
Thousands of robberies occur across the United States weekly. Such crimes are categorized using degrees of force and whether a weapon is involved in the attack. The snatching of a purse from a person could involve force while the stealing of a purse that had been set down next to a person would usually not involve force. The use of a weapon during the process immediately makes the crime aggravated.
Accordingly, the defendants, in this case, were guilty of aggravated robbery from the start even before any physical harm was present because of the use of a weapon (bat). Once the beating began, the case became an aggravated assault. Assaults are further defined by the degree of harm caused to the victim. The greater the injury, the more severe the crime (e.g., “substantial” versus “great.”)
The charge increased to murder once the victim died. In many jurisdictions when the victim dies during the commission of an aggravated assault or other serious crime, the charges are upgraded to murder in the first degree—and in states where the death penalty exists, special aggravating circumstances might exist—triggering the possibility of an execution of the defendant[s].
In this case, there were plenty of aggravating circumstances present. The group obviously were on the prowl seeking a victim to rob demonstrating premeditation They brought weapons and beat the victim without mercy and then used the same bat on two other victims a few blocks away. This criminal case was an easy matter for the state to prove.
Regarding sentencing, we are opposed, in most cases, of sentencing without any possibility of parole– especially when the offenders are young at the time of the crime. We are opposed to the death penalty even in severe cases because of the possibility of error. In those grim cases where guilt is not questioned, we think life without parole is adequate.