Verdict reached in 49th Street Massacre death penalty trial
Jurors have reached a verdict on whether a gang member convicted of killing four people -- including a 10-year-old boy -- should be executed or serve the rest of his life in prison, authorities said.
The verdict is expected to be read in a downtown Los Angeles courtroom later today, officials with the court and district attorney’s office said.
A prosecutor argued last week that Charles Ray Smith deserved to die after a previous jury found him guilty of taking part in two separate deadly shootings in 2006, including one that became known as the 49th Street Massacre, in which two men wielding AK47s opened fire on children and adults enjoying a Friday afternoon on a quiet South Los Angeles street.
Los Angeles County Deputy Dist. Atty. Amy Ashvanian told jurors during closing arguments that the first of Smith’s killings occurred on March 31, 2006, when Bani Hinojosa was shot in the back. Hinojosa, 27, was bringing home milk to his wife and daughters.
Slain on 49th Street on June 30, 2006, were David Marcial, 10; his uncle, Larry Marcial, 22; and Luis Cervantes, a 17-year-old neighbor. David’s 12-year-old brother was seriously wounded in the attack. The boys had been riding their bicycles in front of their house when the gunmen opened fire.
Smith’s attorneys urged the jury to spare their client, questioning whether he was involved in the killings. They said jurors should also consider a variety of disorders from which Smith suffers, including post-traumatic stress disorder brought on by his upbringing. They said his afflictions warped Smith’s view of the world, impaired his logic and made him react impulsively.
Smith, they said, was raised by parents who were heavy drinkers when he was a child and who were addicted to crack cocaine when he was a teenager. All four of his brothers ended up in jail or prison, the attorneys told jurors during closing arguments.
The lawyers also noted that many of Smith’s relatives, including his children, testified that he was a loving father who encouraged his children to do well in school.
The brutality of the 49th Street killings shocked a city long used to gang violence. The shooting was one of several high-profile gang crimes that stoked fears among some minority activists of a possible race war. Witnesses described the gunmen as black; the victims were Latino.
But prosecutors have argued that race had little to do with the killings and that Smith and another man, Ryan T. Moore, mistook the victims for rival gang members in a tit-for-tat feud over turf, drugs and pride. None of the victims had any gang ties.
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