Jury selection began today in a long-delayed murder trial in Santa Clara County Superior Court of a 48-year-old man accused of ramming and killing two pedestrians and injuring one outside a park in 2008. Armando Suazo Ochoa, dressed in a business suit, watched as his attorney Ingo Brower and Deputy District Attorney Dan Fehderau questioned potential jurors to kick off the trial more than four years after Ochoa’s arrest on murder and other charges. The full jury should be seated by next Monday and the trial could last until mid-January, with 40 to 50 people being offered as potential witnesses, Fehderau said. “We sort of gave the judge a universe of witnesses and then we’re going to pare it down,” Fehderau said.
Ochoa faces two counts of murder and one count of attempted murder in the Sept. 14, 2008 rampage where witnesses told San Jose police that an irate Ochoa drove his SUV onto a sidewalk bordering a public park and hit three male pedestrians. Aproniano Siruno, 71, was walking with Rodolfo Escurial, 68, and a third man at about 8:45 a.m. next to Hillview Park at the corner of Berona and Alfred ways when police claim that Ochoa steered his Chevrolet Suburban toward them and hit all three. Siruno was killed at the scene, while Escurial died later in a hospital. The third victim recovered from his injuries. Police said a witness, who was on his way to play soccer at Hillview Park, said that Ochoa drove up next to him in an SUV on Tully Road at about 8:30 a.m. and appeared to be drunk or “on drugs.” Ochoa then veered in front of the witness’ car and started to swerve around and slam on his brakes, according to police.
The men started yelling out their windows at each other. The witness told police he watched as Ochoa turned onto another road and then drove right toward him, forcing the witness to turn off to the side to avoid a collision. The same witness arrived at the park minutes later and saw Ochoa swearing at two of his soccer teammates and making derogatory comments about Mexicans before driving away over a center median. A pair of other witnesses, who later identified Ochoa in a police line-up, reported that he came up to them and started arguing and swearing at about 8:45 a.m. Ochoa, still shouting, then got into his Suburban and drove, at which time the witnesses feared he was going to run them over. But they then heard a crash and ran over to find the three male victims lying on the ground.
Still another witness described to police seeing Ochoa arguing with the other two witnesses and then driving through a stop sign at Alfred and Berona ways before hitting the victims. Witnesses furnished police with Ochoa’s license plate number and officers located his Suburban at a light rail station. When police got to Ochoa’s address, they observed him arriving home in a taxicab. Ochoa has been in custody ever since, Fehderau said. Among the factors delaying the case was Ochoa’s switch from a public defender to a private attorney, he said.
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