Hearing Opens in Market Tragedy

Times Staff Writer

From a balcony above the Santa Monica Farmers’ Market, Christopher Crain could see only carnage.

More than 20 people sprawled on the ground, some lying in pools of blood. A screaming mother leaning over her infant. Fruit and vegetable stands crumpled and tossed aside.

Crain was the first prosecution witness to testify Monday at a court hearing to determine whether George Russell Weller will stand trial for killing 10 people as he drove his Buick LeSabre through the market on July 16, 2003.


Weller, 87, faces 10 counts of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence. If ordered to stand trial and convicted, he could be sentenced to a maximum of 18 years in prison.

Prosecutors say Weller negligently drove his car nearly 1,000 feet through the market, coming to a stop only because of rolling friction and a body trapped beneath his vehicle.

Defense attorneys maintain that an undiagnosed heart condition caused Weller to lose control of his car just before the crash.

Weller appeared briefly in Los Angeles County Superior Court on Monday, but his attorneys said that he would not attend most of the hearing because of a heart condition.