The Halloween gang killer of a Spider-Man clad 5-year-old boy has won a bit of an appeals court victory with his sentence being cut from 128 years to life to 114 years to life.
Attorneys for Leonard Hall Jr. — known as “Baby Skull” — argued in their appeal that the jury in the 2010 murder had insufficient evidence to find a gang allegation true and also that Hall’s sentence was incorrectly calculated.
A three-judge panel of the Second District Court of Appeal agreed with the argument on sentencing but ruled that, “Substantial evidence supports the true finding for the gang enhancement” and affirmed Hall’s conviction.
Hall was convicted in May 2015 of one count of second-degree murder and two counts of attempted murder in the South Los Angeles backyard slaying. He was also convicted of allegations that he personally and intentionally discharged a handgun and committed the crime for the benefit of a criminal street gang — by the third jury to hear the case against him. Two other juries had deadlocked on the charges.
Co-defendant Marcus Denson pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter in the death of Aaron Shannon Jr. and two counts of attempted murder involving the boy’s grandfather and uncle, who were wounded. Denson was sentenced in January 2016 to 25 years and eight months in prison.
Deputy District Attorney Sarika Kim said Hall was seeking retaliation against a rival gang when he opened fire around 2 p.m. on 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 Denson went into rival gang territory in the midst of what an expert testified was an active gang war and passed behind the family’s backyard.
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, Kim told jurors.
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 testified that he didn’t know Hall had a gun, but that it would have been a “suicide mission” to go into rival territory without a weapon.
Denson said Hall began shooting without saying a word after passing some provocative gang graffiti across the alley from the house.
Hall’s attorney, Carol Ojo, said the prosecution’s case relied on eyewitness testimony, contending there was “absolutely no physical or forensic evidence” of Hall’s involvement.
After the verdict was handed down, she maintained that her client was “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.”
The boy’s grandfather and uncle identified Hall from a “six pack” of photos and at trial, according to the panel’s opinion. Hall and Denson were also captured on surveillance video running from the area.
As for the gang allegation, the opinion published Monday states that both Hall and Denson were gang members and, “The victims did not know defendant, ruling out a personal motive for the shooting. Deputy Rodriguez’s opinion that such a shooting would benefit the (gang) by instilling fear in the community was a reasonable conclusion (for the jury to reach).”
–City News Service
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