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Santa Monica Farmers Market Crash Driver Faces Trial

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The Los Angeles Times reported yesterday that an "87-year-old man must stand trial for killing 10 people as he drove his car through the Santa Monica Farmers' Market last year, a judge ruled Wednesday.George Russell Weller's attorneys argued unsuccessfully that the elderly driver accidentally pressed the gas pedal instead of the brake and then went into a "panic" mode that prevented him from being able to stop.

But Deputy Dist. Atty. Ann Ambrose countered, "He sent 63 people to the hospital and 10 people to the morgue…. That is not merely a tragedy. That is a crime."

Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Katherine Mader called the case unprecedented. Whether or not Weller went into a "hyper-vigilant" state after pressing the wrong pedal, Mader said, his error caused him to negligently drive the car through the busy marketplace.

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Deputy DA Ambrose acknowledged that pedal error may have caused the crash, but said that ordinary drivers do not mistake one pedal for the other while driving for 1,000 feet.

"Pedal error in and of itself is negligent behavior," she told the judge."

Weller faces 10 counts of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence, charges punishable by 18 years in prison. He is to return to court Nov. 17.

LAist wonders why this case is even going to trial. Why didn't Weller's attorneys cop a plea bargain long ago?