Tuesday, April 3, 2007
C.A. Overturns Life-Without-Parole Sentence in Murder of Jeweler
By KENNETH OFGANG, Staff Writer
The Court of Appeal for this district has overturned the life sentence, without possibility of parole, imposed on one of two men convicted of murdering a jeweler while robbing his business at the Avalon Discount Mart in South Los Angeles.
Div. Eight Thursday affirmed the first degree murder convictions of Arnold Wayne Lynch and Marcus Parks, but ruled that there was insufficient evidence to prove that Lynch—who did not fire the single, fatal shot—acted with reckless indifference to life, an element of the special-circumstance robbery and burglary charges.
Prosecutors charged the pair, along with Karl and Shareka Smith, William Cooper, Nathaniel White and Arnetta Lynch with executing a plan to smash the display cases and run away with jewelry. White, Shareka Smith, and Arnetta Lynch—Arnold Lynch’s sister—pled guilty to voluntary manslaughter and testified for the prosecution; Cooper and Karl Smith were tried together, but separately from Arnold Lynch and Parks.
Witnesses testified that the two women staged a fight with each other in order to divert attention from Parks, Cooper, and Karl Smith. Cooper and Smith then smashed the cases before one of the three men shot Jin Kim, owner of JK Jeweler.
Lynch was implicated as having conceived the plot and recruited several of the conspirators. He and Parks were convicted of first degree murder with special circumstances, as well as robbery, conspiracy, and burglary.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor sentenced both of them to life-without-parole for the murder and stayed sentencing on the remaining counts.
In an unpublished opinion for the Court of Appeal, Justice Paul Boland rejected the defense contention that accomplice testimony—by the three defendants who pled out and by Frank Norwood, who was not implicated in the plot but allegedly received some of the property and testified under a grant of immunity—was insufficiently corroborated.
He cited a phone call from the jail, a recording of which was offered in evidence, in which Lynch told the recipients not to give information about him if questioned by police. In it, he mentioned “Pooh Dog”—a nickname for Cooper, who had a ring stolen from JK with him when arrested—as well as a fight between two females, and a homicide.
There was also a recording of a conversation among Lynch, Parks, and Cooper, in which the three discussed having shot someone and Lynch described the victim’s injuries in terms that matched the coroner’s testimony about Kim’s wounds.
Parks, Boland went on to say, likewise incriminated himself in a recorded jailhouse conversation with Lynch and Cooper.
The justice, however, said Lynch’s attorney was correct in arguing that the special-circumstance findings could not stand in his case.
Boland explained that a defendant convicted of murder who is not the actual killer is subject to the death penalty or to life imprisonment without possibility of parole, on the basis of a felony-murder special circumstance, only if he or she “aids, abets, counsels, commands, induces, solicits, requests, or assists in the commission” of the underlying felony with “intent to kill” or “with reckless indifference to human life and as a major participant.”
The evidence against Lynch, who was not present at the robbery and was recruited as the getaway driver, did not meet that standard, the justice said. There was no proof he knew that Parks brought a gun or that he would resist violently if someone in the store tried to prevent the robbery, or that he knew that someone had been shot, or that he assisted the shooter after the fact, Boland said.
Parks, on the other hand, might very well have been the shooter, and certainly played a greater role in the crimes than Lynch did, so the special-circumstance finding as to him was supported by substantial evidence, the justice concluded.
The case is People v. Lynch. B188576.
Copyright 2007, Metropolitan News Company