A state appeals court panel upheld a parolee’s conviction for the murders of two men at a house party in Lancaster nearly 5 1/2 years ago.
But the three-justice panel sent the case against Leo Jerome Johnson back to the trial court Monday as the result of a new state law that gives judges discretion to strike certain firearm enhancements.
Johnson was sentenced in January 2017 to 80 years to life in state prison after being convicted of second-degree murder for the June 23, 2013, shooting deaths of 33-year-old Nicky Packard and 22-year-old Michael Sewell Jr.
Johnson was on parole for armed robbery at the time of the crimes.
Prosecutors said the victims were at a party throw by a motorcycle club and then went to an after-party at a house on Hanstead Avenue, where they approached Johnson using language from a rival gang. Family members told authorities the men didn’t belong to any gang, but had ties to that world.
Johnson went back to his house, got a gun and confronted the victims as the after-party was ending, shooting Packard three times and Sewell once as he tried to come to Packard’s defense, according to prosecutors.
Prosecutors contended that Johnson was a gang member, but a gang enhancement was dismissed by the court before the case went to trial.
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