A jury convicted a 22-year-old man of first-degree murder Monday in the shooting deaths of two graduate students who were killed while sitting in a parked car near USC.
Javier Bolden was the second defendant charged in the April 11, 2012, killing of Ming Qu and Ying Wu, 23-year-old engineering students from China. Bolden was also found guilty of attempted murder and assault with a firearm in a separate shooting involving two victims outside a banquet hall in South L.A. a couple of months earlier.
The verdicts came after a six-day trial, in which a prosecutor played the full video of detectives interrogating Bolden after his arrest. At first, Bolden was evasive. When a detective asked him if he remembered being involved in any shootings, Bolden responded flatly: “No.”
An hour into the interrogation, one of the detectives told Bolden they were talking about something that happened near USC and urged him to speak up. The detective said that it could be a death penalty case, and that a lack of remorse could make Bolden look heartless.
“Do you want the jury to see something like that?” he asked.
Before long, Bolden changed course, admitting that he was near USC the night of the shooting. He then drew a diagram of where the victim’s BMW had been parked when he and a friend approached the vehicle, hoping to “get some cash.”
Bolden’s attorney, Andrew Goldman, told the jury of seven women and five men that his client hadn’t really been at the crime scene that night, but that he felt pressured into making a false confession after the detective brought up the death penalty.
For the Record
Oct. 27, 4:20 p.m.: An earlier version of this post said the jury consisted of eight women and four men. It was seven women and five men.
Bolden had pieced together information about the shooting, Goldman said, from media coverage and from conversations with his friend, Bryan Barnes, who pleaded guilty in February to two counts of first-degree murder in the USC shootings.
“He had to make these things up,” Goldman said. “He didn’t know all the details, because he wasn’t there.”
Deputy Dist. Atty. Dan Akemon argued that some of the most damning evidence in the case was a wiretapped phone conversation in which Barnes asked Bolden if he remembered the time they “ran up on them little Asian people.”
Bolden responded “mmnh-mmnh” when Barnes mentioned details from the shooting, and toward the end of their conversation Bolden told Barnes to “just relax.”
“He’s admitting to these murders in that conversation,” Akemon said.
During the trial, jurors also watched a video of Bolden bragging about the shootings to his cellmate, a police informant. The man identified during the trial only as “Stevie” wore a small camera on his shirt that recorded Bolden talking nonchalantly about the USC shooting. Bolden told Stevie that he watched as Barnes shot the two students.
“The passenger just slumped,” he said.
Goldman told jurors that his client had made almost everything up to look tough in front of his older cellmate, who was described by a detective as a heavy-set man with gang tattoos who gets paid between $500 and $1,000 every time he works as an informant.
“Of course he’s going to puff,” Goldman said. “Of course he’s going to exaggerate.”
Several times throughout the trial, Bolden turned to look at his family in the audience. Sometimes he smiled. Other times he put his hand up near his ear, signaling that he wanted to talk to them on the phone. Most days, his mother sat quietly with her Bible on her lap.
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