Wednesday, April 8, 2015
C.A. Upholds Convictions in Compton Robbery-Murders
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The Court of Appeal for this district yesterday affirmed the convictions of three men in the 2010 murders of two men, as well as other crimes connected to the robbery of a Compton used-car dealership.
Div. Five, in an unpublished opinion by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Allan Goodman, sitting on assignment, rejected insufficient-evidence and other claims raised by Anthony McLaurin, Devin Lamont Lewis, and Paul Jordan in the killings of Vance Donnell Dean, 40, of Long Beach and Lejon David Robins, 40, of Huntington Beach.
The victims’ bodies were found by sheriff’s deputies responding to a burglary-in-progress call at Custom City Auto on North Long Beach Boulevard. Lewis was one of several men found in a van that deputies stopped a few blocks away.
The driver and owner of the van, Chendareth Meas, was tried separately, and also testified at the trial of McLaurin, Lewis, and Jordan. Deputies searching for two men who ran from the van following the stop found Jordan trying to hide under a nearby car.
One of the men in the van was Jordan’s brother, who died of a heart attack shortly after being taken into custody. Jordan testified in his own behalf, claiming he had nothing to do with the robbery, and was only in the area because he was looking for his brother.
Meas gave detailed testimony concerning the planning and commission of the robbery. Five victims, including the two who were killed and a third who was shot but survived, were at the business watching an NCAA tournament basketball game when the crimes occurred.
Meas acknowledged efforts to obtain a plea bargain, but said he ultimately decided to testify without one in order to clear his conscience.
All three defendants were convicted of the two murders and sentenced to life imprisonment without possibility of parole. They were also convicted of attempted murder, five counts of robbery, and armed assault, with Lewis and Jordan also convicted on felon-in-possession-of-a-firearm charges.
Among the arguments raised by the defense was that prosecutors violated Brady v. Maryland (1963) 373 U.S. 83 by suppressing a letter concerning an agreement to reduce Meas’ sentence in exchange for his testimony. The letter was not disclosed to the defense until trial.
Goodman explained that although there had been discussion of a plea in exchange for a 20-year sentence, there had been no plea, and Meas had gone to trial. The judge at the trial, Eleanor Hunter, had said she would not vacate Meas’ sentence in order for the plea to go into effect.
The jurist said that to the extent the defense was claiming that it was prejudiced by not having the letter disclosed earlier, the issue was outside the scope of the record and would have to be raised by habeas petition. Otherwise, Goodman concluded, there was no prejudice and no basis for reversal.
The case is People v. McLaurin, B250278.
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