Friday, October 31, 2014
S.C. Upholds Death Sentence in Gang-Related South L.A. Killings
By KENNETH OFGANG, Staff Writer
The California Supreme Court yesterday unanimously affirmed the death sentence for a gang member convicted of killing three men in South Los Angeles in 1994.
Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, writing for the court, said that all of Marcus Adams’ claims of error were forfeited or without merit, and that if judicial error had occurred, it would have been harmless
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Lance Ito sentenced Adams to death in 2003 for the murders of Lamar Armstrong, Dayland Hicks and Trevon Boyd. The three friends, members of the Rolling 60s Crips, were shot to death while sitting in a car near the corner of 47th Street and Western Avenue.
Hicks, 22, died in the car. Boyd, 20, made it as far as a nearby store, while Armstrong, 19, died at a hospital before doctors could get him into surgery.
Adams, a member of the Six Deuce Brim Bloods, was picked up a short time later as a suspect in the murders and several other gang-related crimes. He denied any involvement in the murders, told police he had heard about them from someone else, but acknowledged a hatred of the Rolling 60s, members of which had killed his brother.
With witnesses not cooperating, and sometimes telling contradictory stories, Adams was released in 1995.
The case came back together, however, following the 1997 robbery of the Vandenberg Federal Credit Union in Santa Barbara County, in which Christine Orciuch, 48, a mother of three, was shot to death in front of her 11-year-old son. Adams was subsequently identified as one of the four robbers, although not the shooter.
In 1998, the Santa Barbara district attorney investigators working the case interviewed Lewis Dyer, one of two eyewitnesses to the 1994 shootings. Dyer, who had been uncooperative previously and had been in custody in the interim, told them he was out of the gang life and confirmed that Adams had killed the three men in the car. Dyer said Adams later told him that the only reason Adams did not shoot Dyer, a friend of the three victims, was because he and Dyer had served time together in the California Youth Authority.
Dyer, who had failed to identify Adams at a live lineup after the original arrest, did so in 1999, and again at a preliminary hearing and at trial.
In his opening statement, Deputy District Attorney Patrick Sequeira explained that the case had taken nine years to get to trial because of “threats,” “fear,” and “intimidation” of witnesses, which would explain their reluctance to come forward and speak with police. The prosecutor referred to there being in the case a “theme” of such threats, intimidation, and fear.
The defense did not object at the time, but argued on appeal that those statements, and testimony and jury instructions in the same vein, deprived the defendant of a fair trial.
The chief justice rejected those arguments. Even if the defense had not forfeited its objections, she explained, the statements and evidence were either proper or non-prejudicial.
Dyer, she noted, testified that he was directly threatened by the defendant. She also said there was no requirement that the prosecution show that Adams was personally involved in the threats in order to argue that they were the reason for prior inconsistent statements by witnesses.
The case is People v. Adams, 14 S.O.S. 4835.
Copyright 2014, Metropolitan News Company