Former Palos Verdes High School student acquitted of murder charge

A former Palos Verdes High School student was acquitted Monday of a first-degree murder charge stemming from a South Los Angeles gang shooting that left a 21-year-old man dead.

After more than a week of deliberations, a downtown Los Angeles jury also acquitted Cameron Terrell, 18, of two counts of attempted murder involving two other men who were not injured in the Oct. 1, 2017, shooting that killed Justin Holmes. Prosecutors contended Terrell drove the getaway car in the shooting.

Deputy District Attorney Adan Montalban told jurors during the trial that Terrell is a gang member. He said Terrell knew there was a gang rivalry -- in which a fellow gang member had been shot earlier -- when he drove into rival gang territory with two juveniles who got out of the car and confronted Holmes and the other two men, who denied any gang affiliation before the shooting on 78th Street near Western Avenue.

The deputy district attorney disputed Terrell's subsequent claim to police that he thought the two might yell out or engage in a fistfight, questioning why the defendant stopped his car out of sight and let two juveniles get out of the vehicle to confront three adults if he thought it was going to be a fistfight.

Defense attorney Jovan Blacknell told jurors his client didn't know anyone was going to be shot on a Sunday in broad daylight.

``Cameron didn't expect to hear gunshots. He didn't expect any of this to happen,'' Terrell's attorney said.

``When he hears the gunshots, he's shocked,'' Terrell's attorney said, telling jurors that the young man's first instinct after hearing the gunshots was to ``survive'' and ``drive a whole city block away.''

He said his client was reacting to something he didn't expect and that he thought his two friends were in danger when he saw them running back to the vehicle, and questioned why Terrell would drive ``his daddy's car'' if he knew there was going to be a shooting.

Terrell and the two juvenile suspects were arrested Oct. 12. A $5 million bond was subsequently posted on Terrell's behalf and he returned to classes at Palos Verdes High School. When news of his arrest spread at the campus in the upscale area, some parents began expressing concern about the safety of allowing him back in class.

His parents -- identified by the Daily Breeze as media consulting firm president Donald Wayne Terrell and interior designer Debra Terrell -- eventually agreed to pull him out of classes.

From Hal Eisner:

As I stood in the courtroom hallway on the 15th floor of the Criminal Courts building I watched as the family of Cameron Terrell held hands in a circle and prayed. After three not guilty verdicts were announced (one for first degree murder and two for attempted murder) I asked the 18-year-old if he was praying for an acquittal. He told me, "Of course! I talk to God everyday and God knows all my sins. So, I don't have to explain myself to anyone. God knows what happened that day and God knows what was in my heart that day."

That day that Cameron Terrell is talking about was October 1st, 2017. During the trial prosecutors said Terrell befriended gang members and drove the getaway car in a shooting that killed 21-year-old Justin Holmes. Says Terrell, "I want to say rest in peace Justin Holmes. You shouldn't have died that day. I pray for his family every night. This has been weighing on me every single day of my life… so, rest in peace Justin Holmes."

Holmes friends and family in the courtroom left in disbelief. Prosecutors had nothing to say. But, to Terrell's attorney Jovan Blacknell, the entire prosecution notion that their client was responsible as a getaway driver Blacknell thought of that as overreaching. He says, "I thought that the process was somewhat unfair to him (Terrell) because there were attempts made to get the jury to focus on things other that what took place and instead of focusing on the events of October 1st, 2017. What Cameron knew. What Cameron did. It was more focused on things that were tangential to the case."

Like his Facebook posts and rap music. None of which, said the attorney, shed light on the events of October first.

This case has been painted by the prosecution as a one involving a rich kid from upscale Palos Verdes who was able to get out of jail by having his 5 million dollar bail posted for him.

In the end a jury didn't buy his involvement. It was unanimous. Three not-guilty verdicts. To that Terrell says, "I'm just happy to be free. I'm happy this is over with and I'll pray for Justin Holmes every single night of my life."

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