The “cold” and “calculated” killings of two men, committed less than a week apart by the alleged head of a robbery-prostitution ring, amounted to first-degree murder, a prosecutor told jurors Monday, but a defense attorney said his client’s “rash, impulsive” acts were not premeditated.
Michael Mosby, 25, is charged with two counts each of murder and second-degree robbery in the shooting deaths of 36-year-old Pedro Rodriguez on April 18, 2014, and 29-year-old William Quezada on April 23 of that year.
Both killings occurred near Flower and 47th streets, at the edge of the Vermont Square neighborhood where it borders the Harbor (110) Freeway.
Mosby, who sat quietly throughout the closing arguments of his trial in a gray cable knit sweater and blue collared dress shirt, also faces one count each of pimping a minor 16 years of age or older, attempted murder, shooting at an occupied motor vehicle and child abuse.
The charges include special circumstance allegations of multiple murders and murder during the commission of a robbery. Prosecutors have decided not to seek the death penalty.
Co-defendant Mariah Jiles, also 25 and alleged to be part of the prostitution-robbery ring, is charged with one count each of attempted murder, shooting at an occupied motor vehicle and child abuse.
Prosecutors said she used her 2-year-old daughter as part of a plan hatched with Mosby to lure Leon Merritt to meet her so she could shoot him on April 1, 2014.
Two other co-defendants charged in the alleged robbery-murders — Tenise Dominique Taylor, 24, and Marina Judkins, 19 — testified at trial in exchange for lesser sentences. Taylor is set to be sentenced to 13 years and four months in prison, while Judkins is expected to be sentenced to 11 years.
Deputy District Attorney Victor Avila told the five-man, seven-woman jury panel that Rodriguez picked up Judkins, who was working as a prostitute, and parked in the area.
At a signal from Judkins, Mosby allegedly pulled his car in front of Rodriguez’s delivery van to block it and then “shoots him straight in the chest,” Avila said.
Mosby then allegedly took Rodriguez’s wallet and some paperwork, which was found in Mosby’s car along with the alleged murder weapon when he was arrested, Avila said.
Though the killing occurred around midnight, prosecutors said it was seven hours before the shooting was reported and Rodriguez’s body was found.
Five days later, “Mosby did the same thing,” according to Avila.
Quezada picked up Judkins and “tries to negotiate for sex,” Avila said.
Mosby jumped into Quezada’s car and allegedly fired three bullets in the victim’s back as Quezada jumped out of the driver’s side window and then crawled and collapsed in front of a nearby house, the prosecutor said.
Mosby told Taylor, who was waiting in another car, to grab Quezada’s wallet.
She “gets out of the car and stomps on him,” Avila said, citing testimony by a 12-year-old witness.
As Mosby drove off, he told Judkins, Taylor and another man in the car that, “If anyone says anything, I will pop you,” according to Avila.
Avila said Mosby didn’t know either man and killed them because they wouldn’t give him the money he demanded.
“He is making some cold decisions on people,” Avila said. “The goal is to get people’s money so they can buy methamphetamine, pay for hotels, pay for cars.”
Avila argued that both shootings amount to first-degree murder, calling it “a straightforward case.”
Mosby’s defense attorney acknowledged that his client intended to kill the men, but argued that it amounted to second-degree murder.
“There’s no question that Mr. Mosby intended to kill. There’s a great question as to whether he premeditated or deliberated,” Michael Adelson told jurors.
Adelson said Mosby’s intent could only be inferred by circumstantial evidence and told jurors that if two theories could explain that evidence, they were bound to accept the theory that pointed to Mosby’s innocence.
The defense argued that Mosby had no plan to rob Rodriguez or Quezada and confronted them because they were “gaming his prostitute,” leading to arguments over money.
Taking Rodriguez’s wallet amounted to “an after-intent robbery” and therefore no robbery at all from a legal perspective, but a simple theft, Adelson told the panel.
“Mr. Avila would have you believe that there was some plan to attack johns and rob them,” Adelson said.
The defense attorney cited Judkins’ testimony that she put Mosby’s cell number into Rodriguez’s phone for future business as evidence that a robbery wasn’t expected, though Judkins also referred to the incidents as “get- overs.”
“If the intent to rob or steal was formed after the murder, there is no felony murder,” Adelson said.
His client was using methamphetamine five times a week and had smoked all night before encountering Rodriguez, the defense attorney said, reminding jurors of expert trial testimony that the effect of the drug was cumulative.
Methamphetamine made Mosby “angrier and more violent,” Adelson said.
The murders were “rash, impulsive … not premeditated and deliberated,” Adelson said, adding that “he didn’t walk up to them pulling a gun.”
The defense attorney told jurors that finding Mosby guilty of second- degree murder was “the only fair conclusion you can come to.”
If jurors find Mosby guilty of at least one count of first-degree murder and one count of second-degree murder and find the multiple murder allegation to be true, he will face a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Jurors began deliberating about 3:15 p.m. and went home at 4 p.m. without reaching a verdict.
–City News Service