An attorney for a Burbank man charged with striking and killing a prominent local doctor argued in court Friday that the victim was dangerously close to traffic at the time that he was hit.
A family practitioner and a married father of three, Jacob Orphali, 61, was making a house call on Oct. 12 when he was struck by a passing vehicle in the 1100 block of Western Avenue in Glendale. He died of his injuries two days later.
The driver, 29-year-old Edmond Grigoryan, was charged with one felony count of gross vehicular manslaughter for allegedly driving under the influence of a controlled substance and striking and killing Orphali with his car.
During the preliminary hearing on Friday, Grigoryan’s attorney, Alex Kessel, said Orphali had parked his car more than 18 inches from the curb, leaving him vulnerable as he exited and stepped into the two-lane street.
Kessel also cited Glendale Police Officer Lynette Salazar’s report in which she attributed the cause of the collision to Orphali opening the car door before it was reasonably safe to do so.
“That is what you wrote as the primary cause of this tragic incident, correct?” Kessel asked.
“Yes,” Salazar responded.
Grigoryan used the prescription medication Suboxone, but only immediately before going to bed, Kessel said, adding that his client had not taken a pill for about 24 hours.
The prosecution has maintained that Grigoryan, who also goes by Vardan Hakobyan, was driving under the influence of a controlled substance at the time of the accident. During questioning, Los Angeles County Deputy District Atty. Melanie Buccat asked Salazar to describe Grigoryan’s demeanor on Oct. 12.
“He appeared very sleepy, his eyes were droopy,” Salazar said. “He was slow to respond. I had to repeatedly repeat my questions. Based on the observations, I suspected he may be under the influence.”
Buccat went on to detail four failed field sobriety tests — although two breathalyzer tests turned up negative — before officers placed him under arrest.
Speaking before the hearing Friday, Orphali’s family described him as a dedicated doctor who never turned anyone away. He maintained long hours to accommodate the working schedules of his patients and dedicated one day a week to serving those without medical insurance or money, his wife, Verona Orphali, said.
“He took his oath very seriously,” Verona Orphali said.