Two gang members were sentenced Friday to life behind bars for a woman’s shooting death on Christmas night 2010 in front of her 3-year-old daughter in South Los Angeles, while a third was ordered to spend 40 years to life in custody for what the judge called a “senseless” and “tragic” crime.
“You took my mommy away from me,” Kashmier James’ daughter, Neveah Jackson, told Darnell Deshon Houston, Lamar McKnight and Derrick Williams shortly before they were sentenced for her mother’s killing. “Why have you not said you’re sorry for taking my mommy away from me? … You are mean, evil people.”
The girl, who is now 8, said she hoped that the three would never get out of prison.
The woman’s mother, Kimmolita Evans, told the three defendants that her daughter was killed “all because you wanted to be in a gang, a senseless gang that makes no sense.”
“You took a life away … I want you to remember her face and know why you are sitting in that jail cell,” she told Houston, McKnight and Williams.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Kathleen Kennedy called James’ killing “a really, really horrific crime.”
“Christmas is supposed to be one of the happiest days, especially for a child,” the judge said. “Instead, this was probably the saddest day of this child’s life. … What a horrible thing to do to a child on Christmas.”
The judge noted that James was “an innocent woman who has a right to be on the streets of Los Angeles on Christmas night.”
“It’s so senseless and so tragic,” Kennedy said.
Houston — who the prosecution alleged was the gunman and McKnight the getaway driver — were sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the 25-year-old woman’s killing. The judge denied motions by the defense for a new trial for Houston, 38, and McKnight, 28.
Williams — who was 15 at the time of the crime and a backseat passenger in the car containing Houston and McKnight — was ordered to spend 40 years to life in state prison, with the judge saying she was taking into account the defendant’s age, immaturity and more limited role. Kennedy noted that the young man had smirked in court.
The three were convicted in August of first-degree murder for James’ killing, along with the attempted murder of a man who was not wounded by the gunfire.
Jurors also found true the special circumstance allegation that James was killed while the three were active participants in a criminal street gang and that the murder was carried out to further the gang’s activities, along with gang and gun allegations.
A fourth defendant, Ezekiel Simon, who was 16 at the time of the crime and was also a backseat passenger in the car, pleaded no contest to voluntary manslaughter and attempted murder. Simon, now 20, was sentenced Aug. 27 to 29 years in state prison.
Authorities said James was shot at about 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.
Authorities alleged that the group went out looking for rivals and that James’ friend was mistaken for a gang member. Neither James nor the intended victim were associated with a gang, authorities said.
— City News Service