A Riverside jury failed to reach unanimous verdicts on murder charges against a gang member accused of gunning down two men and seriously wounding another in the city’s Eastside quarter, prompting a judge to declare the panel hopelessly deadlocked, setting the stage for a retrial in the coming months.
Late Monday afternoon, following four days of deliberations in the trial of 42-year-old Antoine Deshawn James, jurors informed Riverside County Superior Court Judge Mac Fisher that they could not agree on two counts of first-degree murder and special circumstance allegations of killing for the benefit of a criminal street gang and committing a hate crime resulting in death.
The split was 10-2 in favor of conviction. The jury, however, found the defendant guilty of attempted murder, gang activity and being a convicted felon in possession of a gun.
The District Attorney’s Office intends to retry James on the unresolved counts.
A separate jury impaneled to hear evidence against co-defendant 28-year-old Abiance Linece Turner convicted her of several felonies on Dec. 20, but the verdicts were sealed because the James jury was still in deliberations.
The verdicts will be unsealed Feb. 21. A retrial status conference is scheduled for James on Feb. 7. Both he and Turner are being held without bail at the Robert Presley Jail in Riverside.
One of the principal witnesses summoned by the prosecution was 30-year-old Francisco Ramirez Mateo, a Guatemalan national, like the two men who were killed — Juan Antonio Bartolo, 45, and Domingo Esteban, 26.
Mateo admitted that his recollection of the Oct. 23, 2015, attack was vague, mainly because he was inebriated.
“I was by myself. I was texting,” he recalled. “I was invited there by the other two.”
Mateo testified that about 9 p.m. that night, he met Bartolo and Esteban to purchase alcoholic beverages at a liquor store on Kansas Avenue, just off of University Avenue.
The witness told Deputy District Attorney Chris Cook that he met Bartolo and Esteban but ended up standing by himself at the corner of Kansas and Seventh Street.
Under cross-examination, Mateo said he vaguely remembered the victims walking past him, after which he was approached by an “unknown” black man.
“He asked me for drugs, but I don’t sell drugs,” the witness testified.
The landscaper said he had no recollection of being shot on the right side of his face.
He collapsed unconscious and, minutes after the shooting, was taken to Riverside Community Hospital, where he underwent surgery and spent more than a week recuperating, according to the prosecution.
Bartolo and Esteban were struck by multiple bullets, and Bartolo died at the scene. Esteban lingered on life support for a day before he succumbed to his wounds.
The prosecution alleges the defendants carried out the attack to raise the profile of an all-black gang that has engaged in periodic turf battles with Hispanic gangs in Riverside.
None of the victims were affiliated with a gang.
Security surveillance videotape obtained from a business immediately after the killings captured images of one of the shooters walking on a sidewalk, moving briskly through the area, armed with a handgun. That and additional evidence amassed over a year’s time culminated in charges being filed against James, Turner and 24-year-old Anthony Lovell Eddington II.
On Dec. 21, 2016, U.S. Marshals and Fresno County sheriff’s deputies attempted to serve an arrest warrant on Eddington, who was holed up in a house in the 600 block of College Avenue in Coalinga.
The gang member allegedly emerged from the residence with a handgun and opened fire on the peace officers, who returned fire, killing him on the spot, according to the Fresno County Sheriff’s Department.
Court records show James is an ex-con with prior convictions for being an accessory to a felony, gang activity, being a felon in possession of a firearm and being in possession of contraband in jail. Turner has prior misdemeanor convictions for assault and shoplifting.
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