A 33-year-old North Hollywood man was convicted Wednesday in the Halloween Day, 1985, ambush killing of an off-duty Los Angeles police detective who hours earlier had testified against him at an armed-robbery trial.
After a five-month trial and 12 days of deliberation, a Van Nuys Superior Court jury found Daniel Steven Jenkins guilty of murder and conspiracy to commit murder in the death of Detective Thomas C. Williams.
Williams, 42, was shot eight times by automatic machine-pistol fire as he picked up his 6-year-old son, Ryan, from a day-care center in Canoga Park. Williams died, slumped against his pickup truck. The boy was uninjured.
The jury found Jenkins guilty of killing the police officer in retaliation for the performance of his duties, a special-circumstance allegation that makes him eligible for the death penalty.
However, the jury found Jenkins innocent of two other special-circumstance allegations: lying in wait to kill Williams and killing him in retaliation for his testimony.
The jury also convicted Jenkins of attempted murder in the July 4, 1985, shooting of George Carpenter, a North Hollywood movie theater manager whom Jenkins allegedly robbed in October, 1984.
Motive for Killing
Prosecutors alleged that Jenkins shot Carpenter five times as he was eating dinner in a North Hollywood restaurant, critically wounding him. But Carpenter recovered and testified at Jenkins' robbery trial, and Jenkins was convicted of the robbery.
It was Williams' testimony at that same trial that provided a motive for the killing, said Deputy Dist. Atty. Richard L. Jenkins, who is no relation to the defendant. The prosecutor contended that Jenkins tried unsuccessfully to hire several people to kill Williams to stop him from testifying in the robbery trial. When that failed, Jenkins killed Williams in revenge, the prosecutor said.
Jenkins stood quietly as court clerk Cathie Gardella read the verdict. Williams' widow, Norma, and daughter, Susan, sat in the front row, fighting tears in a heavily guarded courtroom filled with half a dozen of Williams' police colleagues.
Norma Williams told reporters she was "very, very happy" about the verdict before abruptly leaving in tears.
Superior Court Judge Judith Meisels Ashmann scheduled the penalty phase of Jenkins' trial Aug. 8. Jurors have the option of sentencing Jenkins to death or to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Howard R. Price, one of Jenkins' two court-appointed attorneys, said he was disappointed in the verdict but called the jury's finding of guilty on two of the three special-circumstance allegations "a victory."
"The jury obviously didn't buy hook, line and sinker, all the crap that the prosecution pumped out," Price said.
Three youths testified during the five-month trial that they caught a glimpse of a white man driving away from the murder scene at a high rate of speed. Price told the jury that his client's skin was too dark for him to pass as white, even if he wore white makeup, as prosecutors contended.
Prosecutors portrayed Jenkins as the mastermind of an elaborate murder-for-hire plot involving surveillance of the officer, communication with co-conspirators via telephone and paging machine and numerous stolen cars.
Three prosecution witnesses--Jeffrey Bryant, Tyrone Hicks and Aladron Xavier Hunter--said they were offered up to $10,000 by Jenkins to help kill Williams.
One of them, David Bentley, 35, a longtime friend of Jenkins' who was initially charged with conspiracy to commit murder for his part in the slaying, quoted Jenkins as saying: "I got that ass. I had to take care of it myself." The charge against Bentley was dropped in exchange for his testimony.
Hunter testified that he set out to kill Williams as he left the Faith Baptist Church school with his son on Oct. 25, 1985, but was too frightened. Bryant testified that he too backed out of an agreement with Jenkins to shoot Williams after learning that Williams was a police detective and not a security guard, as he had been told.
Arvie Carroll, imprisoned since 1972 for burglary, robbery and murder, testified that Jenkins told him, in gruesome detail, how he killed Williams. "The detective's body was convulsing with the impact of each bullet," Carroll quoted Jenkins as saying.
Jenkins' alleged "loyal lieutenant" in Williams' murder, Ruben A. (Tony) Moss, 26, was tried on the murder and conspiracy charges before Judge Ashmann by a separate jury, which began deliberations Tuesday. Prosecutors contended that Moss helped make arrangements for the killing and drove the getaway car.
Three other men--Duane Moody, 30, Voltaire Williams, 25, and Reecy Cooper, 33--also are charged in Williams' killing. They are scheduled to be tried later.