gavel.jpgA man accused of intentionally running down and killing a pedestrian in San Francisco’s Mission District in 2007 was found guilty of voluntary manslaughter today.

Hamilton Diaz, 30, struck Randal Gross, 24, with his red Toyota Tercel near the intersection of 16th and Valencia streets early the morning of March 20, 2007.

Diaz and Gross had gotten into an argument, after which Gross allegedly smashed Diaz’s windshield and walked away north on Valencia Street, prosecutors said.

Diaz drove onto the sidewalk and allegedly struck Gross from behind with the car, then sped off. Gross died at the scene, and Diaz was arrested a short time later about a block away.

He was charged with murder and hit-and-run, and pleaded not guilty to all charges.
After a trial that started earlier this month, a San Francisco Superior Court jury began deliberating last Friday and returned Tuesday with a guilty verdict on the hit-and-run charge. However, they continued to deliberate on whether to convict Diaz of murder or a lesser charge.

Deliberations ended this afternoon when the jury declined to convict Diaz of second-degree murder, but found him guilty of voluntary manslaughter with a special allegation of the use of a deadly weapon: the car used to fatally strike Gross.

Judge Jerome Benson called the jury’s long deliberations “time well spent because of the nature of the issues” in the case, including the question of whether Diaz was provoked into killing Gross.

Defense attorney Mark Goldrosen said he is “very pleased” with the verdict since he had argued in court that Diaz “had been provoked” and “acted in the heat of passion.”

Goldrosen said Diaz faces a maximum sentence of 14 years in prison on the various charges, which also include a year for a prior conviction in 2006 on an arson charge.

Gross’ family was in court throughout the trial and for the verdict, but declined to comment until after the sentencing, which will be scheduled at a hearing on Friday.

Dan McMenamin, Bay City News

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