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Court tosses murder conviction in gang shooting, says LAPD violated teen’s Miranda rights

A Los Angeles man convicted of a 2003 gang-related murder must be released or given a new trial because police continued to question him after he said he did not want to talk, a federal appeals court decided Friday.

Kevin Jones Jr. was 19 when police picked him up for questioning about a drive-by shooting in which one teenager was killed and two others were wounded.

The 9th Circuit said in a 2-1 decision that LAPD detectives “lied” to Jones and pretended there was a tape that proved he was involved in the crime.

At first, Jones told the detectives an “improbable” story, the court said. Then, after hours of questioning, Jones said: “I don’t want to talk no more.”

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But Jones continued to make statements that became the “linchpin” of the case against him, the court said. Jones claimed a stranger — the shooter — had forced him to drive to the gas station. Jones was sentenced to 75 years to life.

In a ruling written by Judge Jay S. Bybee, the court said Jones had invoked his Miranda right to remain silent when he said he didn’t want “to talk no more.”

“Once Jones said he wished to remain silent, even one question was one question too many,” wrote Bybee, a President George W. Bush appointee. Bybee was joined by Judge Alex Kozinski, a Reagan appointee.

The victims were members of the Eight Treys Gangster Crips. They were shot while stopped at a gas station in a neighborhood that bordered the territory of a rival gang, the Westside Rolling 90s Crips.

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An African American man sitting in the passenger seat of a black Ford and wearing a Cleveland Indians cap fired at the victims, witnesses said.

An informant told police that Jones was a gang member and drove a car similar to the one used in the shooting.

But the surviving victims were unable to pick Jones out of a photo lineup, and there was no physical evidence linking him to the crime, the court said.

“Indeed witness testimony cut in favor of Jones’s case: Witnesses stated that the car involved in the shooting was different than Jones’s car, and Jones’s baseball cap was different from the one witnesses described,” Bybee wrote.

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California courts upheld the conviction on the grounds that Jones’ decision to continue to talk after saying he wanted to stop showed ambiguity.

In a dissent, Judge Diarmuid F. O’Scannlain, said the 9th Circuit should have deferred to the California courts.

The Reagan appointee said the majority created “a rule that defies the basic logic of human interaction and which would have sweeping consequences for police officers.”

Deputy Atty. Gen. David Glassman, who argued the case on behalf of the prosecution, said his office was reviewing the decision. Jones’ lawyer was not immediately available for comment.

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A spokesman for the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office said lawyers probably will need more time to review the ruling before deciding whether to appeal to a bigger 9th Circuit panel or retry or release Jones.

maura.dolan@latimes.com

Twitter: @mauradolan

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