From Christina Gonzalez:
Aaron Shannon Jr was showing off his Spider Man costume. The five-year-old was in the backyard of the family home, on Halloween of 2010, when bullets came in from the alley. The little boy was hit in the head, and was declared dead at the hospital a day later.
Two juries were deadlocked on the case against the man accused of shooting the gun: 26 year old Leonard Hall Jr. Prosecutors argued that the reputed gang member had gone in the alley with co defendant Marcus Denson, and shot into the back yard, where he thought rival gang members were gathering.
The little boy's family has no gang connections, said police. Denson himself testified in the two earlier trials, claiming he was there, and pointing the finger at Hall as the shooter. Denson did take a plea deal that could earn him 25 years in prison.
Hall's attorney claimed her client wasn't even there, and that she was not able to present evidence to show that. Still, she seemed hopeful yesterday, when the jury told the judge they, like the other prior juries, were deadlocked.
The judge sent them back, and somehow, the one holdout changed his or her mind. They came back with guilty, second degree murder, with guilty also on two more counts of attempted murder for the wounding of the grandfather and uncle, who were also hit by bullets.
The family did not speak with cameras on the way out. Defense Attorney Carol Ojo expressed her disappointment, and expects that the verdict will be overturned on appeal.
Denson will be sentenced tomorrow, and Hall on July 21st.Earlier:
Two previous trials of Hall ended with deadlocked juries.
Prosecutors argued during the latest trial that Hall was seeking retaliation against a rival gang when he opened fire, killing Aaron Shannon Jr.
But Hall's attorney argued that detectives pushed members of the victim's family to identify her client as the shooter.
Aaron and his relatives were in the backyard of the family's home in the 1000 block of East 84th Street in South Los Angeles when the gunfire erupted around 2 p.m. Oct. 31, 2010.
Deputy District Attorney Sarika Kim said Hall was a gang member who went by the nickname "Baby Skull." Kim told jurors that both Hall 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."
Kim said Hall and another alleged gang member, Marcus Denson, went into rival territory in the midst of a 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 said.
Four witnesses -- an accomplice and the boy's grandfather, uncle and a family friend -- identified Hall as the gunman and corroborated details of the shooting, Kim said. The child's father said he could not pick out the shooter from the photos he was shown by police.
Denson was charged along with Hall and earlier pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and two counts of attempted murder. He told police when he was arrested that Hall was with him in the alley behind the boy's house and was the gunman.
Defense attorney Carol Ojo said the prosecution's case relied on the eyewitnesses because there is "absolutely no physical or forensic evidence" of her client's involvement.
Ojo said "the police were under pressure" to solve the high-profile case. One detective in particular "overstepped his bounds," and guided witnesses, uncertain and shaken in the wake of the shooting, to pick Hall's face out of a photo array of suspects, Ojo told jurors.
Ojo said Denson, who is awaiting sentencing, was "a liar, a thief and a manipulator" who originally told a friend that he was in the neighborhood with two other men before the shooting.
One of those men was detained by police because he matched the description of the shooter and was identified by another witness as running from the scene, but police ruled him out without including him in any photo array or line-up, Ojo said.
In her rebuttal, the deputy district attorney urged jurors not to "accept Ms. Ojo's invitation to speculate," telling the panel that the defense attorney would have them believe that all four witnesses who identified Hall were co-conspirators.
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