A former federal police officer convicted of murdering a young man in Hollywood after DNA linked him to the crime more than three decades ago was sentenced Friday to 27 years to life in state prison.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Larry Paul Fidler denied the defense’s motion for a new trial for Pierre Romain, now 55, who was convicted in August 2017 of first-degree murder for the June 29, 1987, shooting of Jade Maurice Clark.
The victim’s mother, Yolanda, who asked that her last name not be used, held up a prom photo of her son and told the judge that now-retired Los Angeles Police Department Detective Rick Jackson — who was with her in court — had vowed that he would never give up his efforts to find her son’s killer and make sure the gunman was held responsible.
“… After 32 years this day has come!” she told the judge, lauding Jackson for his hard work and dedication to demonstrate that “families can see it’s never too late for justice.”
She lashed out at Romain, saying he was “nothing more than a thief that stole Jade’s life,” and “kept living his life a lie and full of deception to become a police officer.”
“Police officers take an oath to protect and serve and to protect the public … Citizens and the public needed protection from him,” said the victim’s mother.
Prosecutors alleged that Romain was a 22-year-old gang member at the time of Clark’s killing — an assertion the defense contested. Police said Romain had crashed a friend’s customized Nissan 300 ZX just before he and an accomplice tried to take a nearly identical model from Clark, who was parked outside a club at 845 N. Highland Ave.
Romain was wounded in the arm in trading shots with the fatally injured Clark, who had a .25-caliber pistol under his seat, police said.
Romain and an accomplice were arrested about a month after the shooting, but charges were dismissed before trial based on insufficient evidence. At the time of that first arrest, Romain was an active candidate for a job as a Los Angeles Police Department officer.
Romain was arrested again in 2003, while employed as a Department of Defense police sergeant at Los Angeles Air Force Base in El Segundo.
At the time of his 2003 arrest, Romain had applied for a job with the San Francisco Police Department. A call from that department’s background investigators prompted Jackson to re-examine physical evidence from the cold-case shooting.
More sophisticated DNA testing technology allowed detectives to use a bullet fired from Clark’s gun to tie Romain to the case.
Deputy District Attorney Tannaz Mokayef told jurors during the trial that the DNA evidence was undeniable.
“There is no getting around the DNA,” the prosecutor said.
Romain’s trial attorney, Winston Kevin McKesson, told jurors that the allegations against the defendant were “false” and that his client’s career had been “left in limbo.”
“He was a trained policeman … Everything he did was inconsistent with gang membership,” McKesson said in his closing argument.
Romain’s new attorney, Alan Jackson, urged the judge to grant a new trial to his client, arguing that the fairness of his trial had been “compromised” and that Romain’s brother, Andre, who is dead, may have instead been involved in the shooting. He noted that the judge also had the discretion to reduce Romain’s conviction from first-degree murder to voluntary manslaughter.
The prosecutor countered that there was “no basis for a new trial,” with the judge subsequently agreeing with that assessment.
Outside court after the sentencing, the deputy district attorney called the verdict and the sentencing “long overdue.”
“And I’m happy that finally there’s some kind of closure or justice for Jade Clark and for his mom,” Mokayef said.
The victim’s mother — who said she has been diagnosed with three types of cancer — vowed to do her best to be on hand if a parole hearing is eventually set for Romain.
“You know what, God willing, if he (Romain) comes up for any type of parole, I will be there, however, I’ve got to be there. But, you know what, he will never walk out of there again,” she said.
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