Accomplice in Fatal Ambush Gets Life Term
A Van Nuys Superior Court jury deliberated less than 20 minutes Thursday before deciding that a Los Angeles man should spend life in prison without possibility of parole for helping to murder an off-duty Los Angeles police detective.
Jurors rejected prosecution arguments that Ruben Antonio Moss should die in the gas chamber for the Halloween Day, 1985, ambush slaying of Thomas C. Williams in Canoga Park.
Moss, 26, who was convicted Aug. 31 of murder in Williams’ death, sighed as the verdict was read. His mother, watching from the back row, burst into tears. “I’m so relieved,” she said later.
Because Moss also was convicted of a special-circumstance allegation that he killed a police officer in retaliation for the performance of duty, the jury’s only other option was to recommend a death sentence.
Judge Judith Meisels Ashmann scheduled formal sentencing for Nov. 18.
After their decision, several jurors said the panel rapidly reached a unanimous decision with no member arguing for the death penalty.
“In my opinion, the death penalty was too severe. I couldn’t have lived with myself,” said juror Kaylene Silva, 21, of Sylmar. Several jurors wished that they could have given Moss a lighter sentence, she said.
“He came across as a person of character. He elicited a lot of sympathy,” said juror Evelyn Mosley, 39, a supervisor with General Telephone Co. Jurors were swayed, Mosley said, by Moss’ lack of a prior criminal record and by testimony that Moss was a sensitive youth who helped elderly neighbors and relatives.
A separate Van Nuys jury recommended Sept. 30 that Moss’ co-conspirator, Daniel Steven Jenkins, 33, be put to death for Williams’ murder.
Prosecutors described Moss as Jenkins’ “loyal lieutenant” who helped plan and carry out the killing in retaliation for Williams’ testimony against Jenkins in a robbery trial. Williams was hit eight times by automatic-pistol fire as he picked up his 6-year-old son from day care at a Canoga Park church.
Deputy Dist. Atty. Bill Gravlin had argued that Moss should be put to death because of the extreme brutality of the killing and the methodical planning that preceded it.
But several jurors said they saw Moss as a gullible youth manipulated by Jenkins. “He was kind of pulled into it unconsciously,” said Silva. Still, jurors believed the law requires that Moss be convicted of murder as an accomplice.
Moss’ mother, Yvonne Moss, said the family will appeal the guilty verdict.
The jury’s quick decision on Moss’ punishment contrasted with the guilt phase of the trial, in which jurors deliberated for more than two weeks before their foreman resigned because a family member was ill. A new juror was called in and deliberations then lasted another 13 days.
Williams’ widow, Norma, was not in court for the verdict. She could not be reached for comment.
Michael V. White, one of Moss’ two attorneys, said he was happy about the verdict but “sad that Tony Moss is to live the rest of his life in jail.”
Jury selection is scheduled to begin Monday for the trial of three other men charged with murder and conspiracy to commit murder in Williams’ death. They are: Duane Moody, 30, Voltaire Williams, 25, and Reecy Cooper, 33.