A day after reporting that they were deadlocked, jurors on Wednesday convicted a 26-year-old man of second-degree murder for the Halloween 2010 shooting death of a 5-year-old boy who was gunned down in his South Los Angeles back yard while wearing a Spider-Man costume.
The eight-man, four-woman jury, which deliberated just over four days, also found Leonard Hall Jr., 26, guilty of two counts of attempted murder for wounding Aaron Shannon Jr.’s grandfather and uncle.
The verdict came a day after jurors told Superior Court Judge Robert J. Perry that they were deadlocked on the charges against Hall, but agreed to continue meeting to try to reach a consensus.
Outside court, defense attorney Carol Ojo said her client had been wrongfully convicted.
“He’s absolutely 100 percent innocent. He was not there. He was not present at the time of the incident. He did not shoot the little boy. He’s not guilty,” Ojo told reporters.
She said she believed jurors may have been “pressured” into reaching the verdict, and that she is “fairly confident the case is going to be overturned on appeal.”
Jurors found true the allegations that Hall personally and intentionally discharged a handgun and that the crime was committed for the benefit of a criminal street gang, but rejected an allegation that the crime was committed “willfully, deliberately and with premeditation.”
Hall — whose two previous trials had ended with deadlocked juries — is facing a maximum 90-year-to-life prison term, with sentencing set July 21.
Deputy District Attorney Sarika Kim argued that Hall was seeking retaliation against a rival gang when he opened fire around 2 p.m. Oct. 31, 2010, as the boy and his relatives were in the back yard of the family’s home in the 1000 block of East 84th Street.
The prosecutor said Hall — a gang member who went by the nickname “Baby Skull” — and his father had previously been shot by members of a rival gang and that an older gang member had told Hall to “scope out the territory.”
Hall and another alleged gang member, Marcus Denson, went into rival territory in the midst of a gang war and passed behind the family’s backyard, Kim told jurors. Hall stopped in the alley and circled back once they’d passed the yard, returning to shoot the boy and his two relatives, who had no gang affiliations, she said.
Four witnesses — an accomplice and the boy’s grandfather, uncle and a family friend — identified Hall as the gunman and corroborated details of the shooting, Kim said. The child’s father said he could not pick out the shooter from the photos he was shown by police.
Denson told police when he was arrested that Hall was with him in the alley behind the boy’s house and was the gunman. Denson pleaded guilty to one count of voluntary manslaughter and two counts of attempted murder and is facing about 25 years in state prison. He is expected to be sentenced after Hall.
Hall’s attorney said the prosecution’s case relied on eyewitness testimony, telling jurors that there was “absolutely no physical or forensic evidence” of her client’s involvement.
Ojo said “the police were under pressure” to solve the high-profile case and pushed members of the victim’s family to identify her client as the shooter. One detective in particular “overstepped his bounds” and guided witnesses, uncertain and shaken in the wake of the shooting, to pick Hall’s face out of a photo array of suspects, Ojo told jurors.
Hall’s lawyer called Denson “a liar, a thief and a manipulator” who originally told a friend that he was in the neighborhood with two other men before the shooting.
One of those men was detained by police because he matched the description of the shooter and was identified by another witness as running from the scene, but police ruled him out without including him in any photo array or line-up, Ojo said.
In her rebuttal, the deputy district attorney urged jurors not to “accept Ms. Ojo’s invitation to speculate.”
— City News Service