Photo via Wikimedia Commons.
Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

A third gang member was convicted Monday of a woman’s murder on Christmas night 2010 in front of her 3-year-old daughter in South Los Angeles.

After two full days of deliberation, a Los Angeles Superior Court jury found Derrick Williams, 20, guilty of first-degree murder for the shooting death of Kashmier James, along with the attempted murder of a man who was not wounded by the gunfire.

Jurors also found true the special circumstance allegation that the 25- year-old woman was killed while Williams was an active participant in a criminal street gang and the murder was carried out to further the gang’s activities, along with gang and gun allegations.

Co-defendants Darnell Deshon Houston, 38, and Lamar McKnight, 28, were convicted Friday by a separate jury panel.

Authorities said James was shot at 10:20 p.m. Dec. 25, 2010, in the 1700 block of West 85th Street as she stood outside a car talking with a friend who lived in the area. Her daughter, who was sitting in the front seat of the car, was not injured.

Prosecutors said members of a local gang were out looking for rivals and Houston mistook James’ friend for a gang member when he ran toward the pair firing multiple rounds from a handgun.

Neither James nor the intended victim were associated with a gang, authorities said.

Williams, who was a backseat passenger the night of the shooting, faces a maximum sentence of 50 years to life, according to Deputy District Attorney Antonella Nistorescu. He is not eligible for life without the possibility of parole because he was 15 at the time of the crime.

Houston and McKnight are facing life in prison without the possibility of parole.

All three defendants are set to be sentenced Sept. 16 before Judge Kathleen Kennedy.

A fourth defendant, Ezekiel Simon, 20, pleaded no contest earlier to manslaughter and attempted murder and is awaiting sentencing. He is facing 29 years in prison.

Monday, Kennedy thanked the jurors for doing a job so many potential jurors declined.

“It was very difficult picking a jury in this case,” Kennedy said. When people are unwilling to step forward, the judge warned, “Matters are going to be resolved on the street … as you can see in this case, street justice is not justice at all.”

Williams sat quietly throughout the reading of the verdict and Kennedy’s comments.

His defense attorney said she would file a motion for a new trial.

Family members of the victim hugged Nistorescu after the trial, failing to hold back tears after waiting 4 1/2 years for justice.

James’ mother is raising her granddaughter, who fidgeted in court before the verdict was read and then stood solemnly with her family in a show of respect for the jurors as they walked out, before quietly calling out, “Yay.”

— City News Service

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