A 33-year-old North Hollywood man was convicted Wednesday in the October, 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 deliberations, 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 with a pistol as he picked up his 6-year-old son, Ryan, from a day-care center in Canoga Park. The boy was not injured.
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.
Prosecutors alleged that Jenkins, who owned a limousine company, 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.
It was Williams' testimony at that same trial that provided a motive for the killing, alleged 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.
Prosecutors portrayed Jenkins as the mastermind of an elaborate murder-for-hire plot involving surveillance of the officer, communication among co-conspirators via telephone and pager and numerous stolen cars.
Williams' widow, Norma, and daughter, Susan, fought back tears as the verdict was announced in a heavily guarded courtroom. Norma Williams told reporters she was "very, very happy" about the verdict.
Superior Court Judge Judith Meisels Ashmann scheduled the penalty phase of Jenkins' trial for Aug. 8. Jurors have the option of recommending death for Jenkins or 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-circumstances 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 high 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.
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.
Another witness, 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 the day of the killing: "I got that ass. I had to take care of it myself." The charge against Bentley was dropped in exchange for his testimony.