A 21-year-old man was convicted of first-degree murder Wednesday for the 2014 killing of a USC graduate student from China who was attacked near campus while walking back to his apartment after a 2014 study session.
Alberto Ochoa is scheduled to be sentenced March 8 on first-degree murder and other charges stemming from the July 24, 2014, attack on Xinran Ji, a 24-year-old electrical engineering student. Ji was able to stagger away from the attack scene and reached his nearby apartment, where he was found dead by one of his roommates.
Three other young people have already been convicted and sentenced in connection with the deadly attack.
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Alejandra Guerrero, now 20, and Andrew Garcia, now 22, are each serving life prison terms without the possibility of parole after being convicted of first-degree murder and other charges, while the getaway driver, Jonathan Del Carmen, now 23, was sentenced to 15 years to life in state prison after pleading guilty to second-degree murder.
In his closing argument Tuesday, Deputy District Attorney John McKinney contended that Ochoa -- who was 17 at the time of the attack -- got out of a car while armed with a baseball bat and was a "substantial factor" in Ji's death.
"You know Ochoa did something to him, his face ... that broke his skin," McKinney said, noting that the victim left a blood trail and that his broken glasses were found on the street where he was initially attacked.
"Clearly he (Ochoa) was a major participant," the prosecutor told jurors in a downtown Los Angeles courtroom.
He told jurors to contrast Ji's decision to walk a female classmate home after a study session with the types of decisions that Ochoa and his friends made, and said Ochoa and his co-defendants targeted Ji because they thought he was an "easy target" who was walking alone in the dark.
Defense attorney Christopher Chaney urged jurors to acquit his client of the murder charge, saying that "Mr. Ochoa is not guilty of the murder of Mr. Ji."
"I don't see a bat. I don't see a swinging of a bat," the defense attorney said of surveillance video from the scene.
"He (Ochoa) withdrew seconds after it started," Chaney told jurors, noting that the surveillance video shows Ochoa getting back in the car and not participating with Guerrero and Garcia in the second attack on Ji after he ran down the street and around a corner.
He said he Guerrero was responsible for the injuries, telling jurors the teenage girl was armed with a wrench. He said there was no evidence that Ochoa had inflicted a fatal blow.