Former Oakland Raiders defensive end Anthony Wayne Smith was found guilty Thursday of killing three men, but a mistrial was declared in a fourth killing after jurors deadlocked.
After deliberating for eight days, a Lancaster jury convicted Smith, 48, of the 1999 double killings of brothers Ricky and Kevin Nettles and the 2001 death of Dennis Henderson, said Ricardo Santiago, a spokesman for the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office.
Jurors also found true special circumstance allegations that Smith committed kidnapping, torture and multiple murders.
But jurors were unable to reach verdict in the 2008 death of Maurilio Ponce, Santiago said. They were split 9 to 3 for a guilty verdict, he said.
On Monday, a juror left a note for attorneys, saying the jury had not properly followed the law while deliberating the Ponce charge, said Smith’s attorney, Michael Evans. The juror believed the jury was confused on the first-degree murder charge and began deliberating second-degree murder. The jurors had to find Smith not guilty of first-degree murder before they could begin deliberating on second-degree murder.
When jurors returned Thursday to announce the sealed decision, Judge Daviann L. Mitchell declared a mistrial on the Ponce charge. The decision to retry the case will be made later.
“I am a true believer in the jury system, but I respectfully disagree with their decisions on counts 1, 2 and 3,” Evans said.
Evans said he will appeal the decision, but will first file a motion for a new trial because he believes it's possible the jury could have been confused by the law on the other murder counts.
Smith, who played professional football with the Los Angeles and Oakland Raiders in the 1990s, is set to be sentenced Dec. 21. He faces three life terms in state prison without the possibility of parole, the district attorney’s office said.
Smith was posing as a police officer when he kidnapped the Nettles brothers on Nov. 10, 1999, from their carwash business in Los Angeles, prosecutors said. The brothers were found dead the next day. They had been tortured and shot with a 9-millimeter handgun.
Evans said he had problems with the prosecutor's witnesses, one of whom said Smith didn’t look like the suspect and another who said he was 75% to 85% sure Smith was the suspect.
Prosecutors said Smith kidnapped Henderson in Mar Vista. Henderson’s body was found the next day in the back of a rental car. He had been beaten and stabbed to death. According to prosecutors, Smith knew Henderson's brother and lived next door to him in Marina del Rey.
Evans said prosecutors did not produce DNA evidence, fingerprints or a handgun to show Smith was responsible for the killings.
This wasn’t the first time Smith faced a jury in the Ponce killing.
In 2012, a mistrial was declared after jurors were unable to reach a verdict. Ponce, a 31-year-old mechanic, was found dead on Oct. 7, 2008; he had been shot six times.
Smith was a top draft pick of the Los Angeles Raiders in 1990, selected 11th overall. He signed a four-year, $7.6-million contract extension after his third season. In 1997, he opted out of his contract and did not sign with another team.
At the time, Smith was described as charitable, treating youngsters to trips and volunteering his time to mentor children in a Los Angeles city housing authority youth program.
But he grew increasingly suspicious of people around him.
"I have grown to despise it," Smith told The Times in 1994. "Someone's desire to trick me or cheat me out of what I have, that makes me sick."
After hanging up his cleats, Smith faced legal troubles. In 2003, he was charged with firebombing a furniture store in Santa Monica, reportedly over a dispute with the store's owner about money and a consignment item.
A judge later dismissed the case after two juries were deadlocked on a verdict.
Times staff writer Ann Simmons and Sam Farmer contributed to this report.
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