A man convicted of murdering two USC graduate students from China during a robbery was sentenced Monday to life in prison without parole.
Javier Bolden, 22, was convicted Oct. 27 of two counts of first-degree murder for the killings of Ying Wu and Ming Qu, who were shot April 11, 2012, as they sat in a car double-parked on a street near the USC campus.
Jurors found true special circumstance allegations of multiple murders and murder during the commission of a robbery.
Bolden was also found guilty of attempted murder for a Feb. 12, 2012, attack about three miles away in which a man who was shot in the head suffered permanent brain damage. Bolden also was convicted of assault with a semi- automatic firearm in connection with a woman hit in the leg by a stray bullet during the attack.
Calling it “truly one of the saddest cases that I’ve had to preside over,” Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Stephen A. Marcus sentenced Bolden to consecutive life sentences for each of the murder counts and the attempted murder plus additional time for various gun allegations.
Bolden was not the shooter, but part of a team that planned to rob the two victims.
Bryan Barnes — described by the prosecution as a close friend of Bolden — pleaded guilty Feb. 5 to a pair of first-degree murder counts involving the USC graduate students and admitted that he used a firearm during the crime. Barnes, also 22, was immediately sentenced to life in prison without parole
“This crime has stained the reputation of Los Angeles and has frightened USC students,” Marcus said.
He spoke to Bolden from the bench, saying he had shown “no remorse” through the trial.
“You are not repentant,” Marcus said, at one point holding up a copy of a Los Angeles Times paper with a photo of Bolden smiling.
“How could you be gleeful about the nightmare you have caused?” the judge asked. “You should be hanging your head like Tom Dooley,” he added, referencing a folk song about a condemned murderer about to be hanged.
Ming Qu’s father gave an emotional statement before sentencing, calling the judgment about to be handed down “unfair” and “humiliating to the people of China as well.”
Speaking through a translator, Wanzhi Qu called Bolden and Barnes “two extremely evil specimens of human trash,” at which point a young woman sitting with Bolden’s mother walked out of the courtroom.
“This judgment is … unfair to our children and of little comfort to their souls in heaven,” Qu said.
He spoke on behalf of his own family and the parents of Ying Wu, who were also in the courtroom, first demanding an apology from his son’s killers.
The families were “sunk in sorrow” over the young lovers’ deaths, he said.
“The injustice we have suffered is as deep as the ocean,” Qu told the court.
“As a society which is very particular about human rights and justice, do you think this is fair?” he asked.
Deputy District Attorney Dan Akemon told jurors during the trial that the 23-year-old graduate students were “helpless victims” inside a BMW that presented an “attractive target.”
Bolden and Barnes were “essentially ambushing” the couple and “counting down the seconds of the lives of these victims” as they approached the car from behind while communicating on cell phones, the prosecutor told jurors.
Barnes fired two shots inside the BMW in which the two victims were sitting, the prosecutor told jurors. Bolden told Barnes to “get what you can get” as the two victims were dying in front of him, and Barnes grabbed two cellular phones, Akemon said.
Qu crawled out of the vehicle and across the street to try to get help after he was shot once in the head. Wu was shot once in the left side of the body and once in her right arm.
Bolden’s attorney, Andrew Goldman, called the shootings a “horrible, horrible incident,” but maintained that his client is not guilty.
Goldman said today he had filed an appeal.
The defense lawyer told jurors during the trial that his client was arrested in Victorville, flown into Los Angeles by helicopter, spent about an hour denying any involvement in the killings while being interrogated by police and was “scared out of his mind” when he was told he could face the death penalty. He said Bolden then gave police details about the shooting that were “completely inconsistent” with testimony and forensic evidence presented during the trial.
“Someone who was there would know exactly what happened,” the defense attorney told jurors.
The prosecutor countered that jurors heard Bolden on tape “confessing” to the murders after police presented him with “very compelling” cell phone records that prove he and Barnes were in the area at the time of the killing.
Of the phone records, Bolden’s attorney said, “Javier’s phone is in the area, but that doesn’t place him next to the BMW.”
Goldman told jurors that his client was intimidated by a jailhouse informant in a cell and that Bolden “had to make things up” because he was not at the scene of the shooting.
In his rebuttal argument, Akemon countered that Bolden had provided “excruciating details” about the case and was “not making anything up.”
“In the end, what we have here is we have a very compelling case of guilt against Mr. Bolden,” he said. “This is a mountain of evidence.”
During Barnes’ earlier sentencing hearing, the fathers of both victims gave statements.
Ming Qu’s father had asked for a death sentence for Barnes, who pleaded guilty in a move that spared him from a potential death sentence.
“Ming and Ying’s lives were so young and precious,” Qu’s father said, telling jurors that they had been in love. He said he and his wife wake up crying at night and dream of their son covered in blood and looking for justice. “The killer must pay a life for a life.”
Prosecutors chose not to seek the death penalty against Bolden.
The judge said Bolden, “for all intents and purposes, … killed Deionce Davance,” the man Bolden shot in the head in 2012. Davance remains paralyzed and unable to communicate with his family, the judge said.
Marcus called Davance’s life “a living hell.”
The judge said Bolden treated the shooting of the Chinese students like a video game, saying the defendant bragged to a jailhouse informant, “Boom, boom and that was it.”
“Think about what I said, Mr. Bolden,” Marcus told the 22-year-old in orange jail clothes as he was escorted out of the courtroom by sheriff’s deputies.
“It’ll take about 20 years for him to understand,” Marcus said, after Bolden exited.
—City News Service
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