Death Penalty Recommended for Murderer of Police Officer

Times Staff Writer

A San Fernando Superior Court jury recommended the death penalty Wednesday for Kenneth Gay, one of two men convicted of gunning down a Los Angeles police motorcycle officer during a routine traffic stop.

The same jury convicted Gay last month of first-degree murder in the death of Officer Paul Verna, who stopped Gay, 27, and co-defendant Raynard Cummings in Lake View Terrace on June 2, 1983, after their car ran a stop sign.

Judge Dana Senit Henry has the option of accepting the panel's recommendation or modifying it to life in prison without possibility of parole when pronouncing sentence Sept. 4. Henry also can sentence Gay to as many as 25 years in prison for his conviction on 14 additional charges in connection with a violent six-week string of robberies Gay and Cummings committed before the murder.

A separate jury heard murder evidence against Cummings because he pleaded guilty to the robbery charges and, under the law, the robbery evidence could not be introduced against him. Such evidence was allowed at Gay's trial. After a hearing scheduled to begin July 15, Cummings' jury will decide whether to recommend the death penalty or life in prison without possibility of parole.

Deputy Dist. Atty. John Watson said the men killed the officer because they were armed ex-convicts riding in a stolen car driven by Cummings' wife, who was not carrying a driver's license, and were afraid they would be arrested.

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