Woman convicted of manslaughter

GLENDALE — A jury returned a unanimous guilty verdict Friday against a Burbank woman accused of involuntary manslaughter in the death of a 75-year-old parking attendant whose fatal head wound resulted from an altercation over a $5 parking fee.

In June 2006, 32-year-old Hilda Voskanian, who was seven months pregnant, pushed Pedro Dorado in the parking lot near Bellaj Reception Hall on East Olive Avenue after she refused to pay the fee.

Dorado fell backward, falling hard onto the asphalt.. Bleeding from the back of his head, Dorado was taken to White Memorial Medical Center, where he fell into a coma and died a week later.

Voskanian was arrested on July 20, 2006, and charged with involuntary manslaughter.

During closing arguments, which started Wednesday, Voskanian was dressed in dark colors and showed little emotion as family members listened to the proceedings behind her.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Ana Lopez sought to portray Voskanian as a temperamental provoker who did not push Dorado in self-defense but was the aggressor during the argument.

“She said Mr. Dorado ran at her, and all she did was put up her arm,” Lopez said with one arm extended toward the jury. “Do you think she could have caused Mr. Dorado to fall backward by [putting one arm out]? It defies the law of physics. It’s beyond a lie. She was in a rage.”

That rage may have been as a result of embarrassment Voskanian suffered when Dorado followed her into a Verizon store to demand the parking fee, Lopez said.

“This is a man who wanted $5 and went into the store to get it,” she said. “She was more than frustrated, more than embarrassed. When she tells you she wasn’t angry, that is just not true.”

In order to prove that Voskanian was guilty of involuntary manslaughter, the prosecution had to convince the jury that Dorado’s death was directly caused by her shove.

“He wasn’t just pushed backward,” she said. “What happened was a complete deadfall onto the asphalt parking lot. The push was committed under circumstances of great bodily harm. What caused the bleeding from his head? It was the blow, the blunt force trauma.”

But in his closing arguments defense attorney, Jim Epstein told jurors that there was reasonable doubt Voskanian’s act did not cause Dorado’s death.

“It has never been in dispute that Hilda pushed Mr. Dorado, but there is a reasonable possibility this woman is not guilty,” he said. “The prosecution has not proven all the elements. She is not guilty of these crimes not because there was a reasonable doubt, but because the majority of the evidence supports her innocence.”

Part of Epstein’s argument of innocence centered on Plavix, a blood-thinning medication Dorado was taking at the time to help with a pre-existing heart condition.

“Hilda’s push didn’t cause the death of Mr. Dorado,” he said. “The fact is that Mr. Dorado was taking blood thinners that caused his bleeding to continue. He was more prone to bleed with the blood thinners.”

Epstein also told jurors that Voskanian’s push was an act of self defense in which Dorado came after his client during the altercation.

“The danger was reasonably apparent,” he said. “She was trying to protect herself and her baby.”

But jurors were unconvinced.

“It wasn’t unanimous at first,” said forewoman Margarita Stone, 36. “But once we decided how the victim fell, then it settled the whole thing. Some were held up because they thought it wasn’t self-defense. It took some discussion.”

As Voskanian filed out of the courtroom in the arms of her husband, tears streamed down her face.

“This wasn’t a very fair trial,” she said.

Voskanian could face a maximum of four years in state prison, Lopez said.

After the trial, her lawyer said that they will seek a motion for a new trial based on evidence that wasn’t admitted during the trial, including a conversation she had with her husband in the back of a police car that was secretly recorded.

“I always thought that the jury would return a battery verdict, but never in a million years would I have bet that they would find the act was meant to cause bodily harm,” Epstein said. “I guess I lost.”

 JEREMY OBERSTEIN covers City Hall and public safety. He may be reached at (818) 637-3242 or by e-mail at jeremy.oberstein@ latimes.com.

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