Jury to receive Franco case this afternoon, final arguments completed
WILLMAR -- The jury is expected to begin deliberating the case of Olga Marina Franco Del Cid this afternoon. Jury instructions by Judge David W. Peterson are set to begin at 1 p.m. at the courthouse in Willmar. Franco faces 24 criminal charges st...
WILLMAR -- The jury is expected to begin deliberating the case of Olga Marina Franco Del Cid this afternoon. Jury instructions by Judge David W. Peterson are set to begin at 1 p.m. at the courthouse in Willmar. Franco faces 24 criminal charges stemming from the fatal school bus crash near Cottonwood.
Franco faces four charges of criminal vehicular homicide for the Feb. 19 deaths of four Lake-view School students: Jesse Javens, 13; his brother, Hunter Javens, 9; Emilee Olson, 9; and Reed Stevens, 12. Sixteen other children, who ranged in age from 4 to 15 years old, and another driver whose vehicle was struck by the bus, were injured in the crash. Franco is accused of 17 charges of criminal vehicular injury. The Lyon County case has been moved to Willmar on a change of venue.
During final arguments, the prosecutor in the case focused on the testimony by the firefight-ers and engineers. "She had to be extricated form the vehicle," Lyon County Attorney Rick Maes said. "The fact that she had to be extricated is the telling tale." Franco has testified that she was not driving and that her boyfriend was driving and fled the scene.
Mothers of the killed and injured children cried in the gallery as Maes listed the names of the children in the accident. He outlined for the jury that they must decide separate elements for each of the 24 charges during their deliberations.
After the arguments, Ralph DesLauriers, the grandfather of the Javens brothers, said his heart goes out to his daughter and son-in-law. The Javens family has had a number of family members in the courtroom since testimony began on July 31.
"How would you feel if you lost two-thirds of your family," DesLauriers said.
Defense attorney Neal Eisenbraun told the jurors that the state had not proven the case, because the state let Franco's boyfriend, Francisco Mendoza, get away. Franco argues that he was driving the van and a federal immigration agent testified that Mendoza is believed to be in Mexico.
"They had somebody already, they didn't need him," he said. "They let the snow blow over his tracks."
A portion of Eisenbraun's one hour of closing comments was about how the state did not pursue Mendoza and stressed that his fleeing can be used as evidence in the case.
"He knew he was driving and that he would get in trouble for it," Eisenbraun said. "They (the state) are desperate to convict someone in this tragedy. The woman they have had locked up for the past half-year will do just fine."
Judge Peterson announced Tuesday that the jury will be sequestered during deliberations.