Los Angeles County Superior Court. Photo by John Schreiber.
Los Angeles County Superior Court. Photo by John Schreiber.

A state appellate court panel Thursday upheld a gang member’s conviction for murdering a 22-month-old boy and the toddler’s uncle, who were struck by stray gunfire in South Los Angeles five years ago.

The three-justice panel from California’s 2nd District Court of Appeal rejected the defense’s contention that a trial court judge erred in denying the defense’s motion to suppress Davion McClelland’s statements about his gang affiliation to police five weeks before the May 23, 2011, shooting deaths of Joshua Montes and his uncle, Josefat Canchola.

The justices also rejected the defense’s claims that there were other errors in McClelland’s trial in Los Angeles Superior Court.

McClelland was convicted in September 2014 of two counts of first-degree murder, along with two counts of attempted murder involving the intended targets. Jurors also found true a special circumstance allegation of multiple murders, along with gang and gun allegations.

Deputy District Attorney Russell Moore told jurors that McClelland and an accomplice rode bicycles into neighboring gang turf in an effort to locate rival gang members and that one of the two began firing at two men, who hid behind a car.

None of the shots hit their intended targets, but the toddler and his 46- year-old uncle — who was holding the boy — were struck by the same bullet, which went across the street, through a vacant lot, through a fence and into a backyard, the prosecutor said.

The toddler died the same day, and Canchola died two days later.

In his closing argument, defense attorney Marc Lewinstein countered, “My position is he wasn’t there. They haven’t proved he was there.”

McClelland’s attorney said there was “enormous pressure” on police to solve the case, telling jurors that authorities had to “make the case fit” after McClelland’s arrest.

McClelland was sentenced in December 2014 to a pair of consecutive life prison terms without the possibility of parole.

–City News Service 

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