A teenager who police say was shot in the back by Crips street gang member Samuel Shabazz retracted his identification in court Tuesday.
Randy Robinson, 16, identified Shabazz while he was being treated in a hospital after he was shot on a South Los Angeles street in 1998.
But Robinson said Tuesday that he was heavily medicated at the time and that was why he picked Shabazz out of a photo lineup.
Moments later, he appeared to contradict himself, saying he picked Shabazz because Shabazz was the shooter. The testimony came as prosecutors opened their case against Shabazz, charged with nine attempted murders and the murder of Lori Gonzalez, granddaughter of former Los Angeles Police Chief Bernard C. Parks. Authorities often cite the absence of witnesses as the most difficult problem in successful prosecution of street gang members.
Shabazz, 18, who appeared in Los Angeles County Superior Court, allegedly was involved in four separate shootings in one day in December 1998. The cases were consolidated over defense objections.
The shooting of Gonzalez, considered a bystander, received extensive publicity.
She had bought fast food in Southwest Los Angeles with a friend, Ernest Gray. She had driven through Popeye's Chicken and was waiting for traffic to clear before pulling out of the parking lot.
Shabazz allegedly walked up to the passenger side of her car, looked at Gray, an alleged rival gang member, and raised a gun.
"What Ernest Gray did then sealed Lori Gonzalez's fate," Deputy Dist. Atty. Anthony Manzella told jurors. "Ernest Gray ducked."
Gonzalez, hit in the chest and head, was taken to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and died that night, May 28, 2000, just a week before her 21st birthday.
The West Boulevard Crips thought Gray had committed a drive-by earlier that day, and responded by sending three carloads of their members to the restaurant, Manzella said in his opening statement.
Shabazz's attorney, Robin Yanes, said during his opening statement that identity of his client was a key issue.
Displaying two photographic lineups he said police used in their investigation, Yanes asserted that his client was the only dark-skinned man in either.
Yanes said several witnesses failed to identify Shabazz, and Yanes questioned the credibility of two who did. He said they cut deals with prosecutors.
If convicted, Shabazz faces a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Bobbie Parks, the former chief's wife, sat in the second row during the proceedings, just behind Felicia Parks-Mena, Lori Gonzalez's mother. Jose Gonzalez, the victim's father, and his wife and children sat near Parks-Mena.
During a break, Bobbie Parks said she planned to attend the entire trial. "I'm just going to watch our justice system at work," Parks said.