Friday, June 20, 2003
High Court Upholds Death Sentence in Slaying at South Los Angeles Gas Station
By a MetNews Staff Writer
A gang member’s death sentence for the murder of a man who was shot while using a pay phone at a South Los Angeles gas station was unanimously affirmed yesterday by the California Supreme Court.
Justice Kathryn M. Werdegar, writing for the court, rejected all of Tracey Lavell Carter’s attacks on his conviction and sentence for the 1987 murder of David Thompson.
Carter was also convicted, in a single trial, of the robbery of Thompson and his wife, the murder and attempted robbery of another man near 73rd and Hoover streets about an hour after the Thompson slaying, and the attempted robbery and attempted murder of another man in the later incident.
Witnesses said Carter and two other men accosted Thompson, a 27-year-old elder of a Tustin church, as he was trying to telephone for help for a disabled church bus. He was robbed of $30 and shot in the head at the corner of Broadway and Slauson.
Namora Thompson, who identified Carter at trial, said the men took $10 from her purse, pushed her out of the family’s car and sped away in it. The car was recovered later in another part of the city, and David Thompson’s wallet was recovered from a storm drain after one of Carter’s accomplices admitted to police he had thrown it there.
Carter, who was 18 at the time of the crimes, initially denied any involvement. But after being confronted with the other men’s confessions, he admitted he was involved but denied that he was the killer or intended that anybody be killed.
In the penalty phase of the trial—he did not testify in the guilt phase—Carter claimed he admitted his involvement because he “wanted the truth to come out.” But prosecutor Anne Ingalls brought out on cross-examination that Carter had denied being present prior to learning that the other two men had implicated him.
Jurors convicted Carter on all counts, including the killing of Leopoldo Salgado, for which Carter was sentenced to life imprisonment without possibility of parole. Testimony identified Carter as a member of the 84 Kitchen Crips .
On appeal, Carter’s court-appointed lawyer, Ronald Smith of Los Angeles, argued that Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Jean Matusinka should have excluded the gang evidence as more prejudicial than probative.
The evidence was properly admitted, Werdegar said, to establish the defendant’s motive and identity.
The testimony explained why Carter was at the gas station that night—his accomplices were members of the 7-4 Hoover Crips, who were allies of Carter’s gang, and were at the gas station with plans to retaliate against the East Coast Crips, Werdegar said. The East Coast group is a rival of the gangs favored by Carter and the other men, and a retaliatory shooting was planned in the East Coast gang’s territory, which included the gas station, according to the testimony.
The justice also rejected the contention that Ingalls’ cross-examination regarding the discrepancy between the defendant’s claimed desire to tell the truth and his original statement disclaiming any involvement was improper. Smith argued that the prosecutor was trying to call attention to the fact that the defendant had at one point said he would not speak without a lawyer present. (A motion to suppress the statement on that ground had been previously denied by the judge.)
But Werdegar agreed with the state’s appellate lawyer, Deputy Attorney General Corey J. Robins, that the prosecutor was only trying to undermine the credibility of Carter’s claim that he “wanted the truth to come out,” and that it was entirely proper for her to do so.
The case is People v. Carter, 03 S.O.S. 3174.
Copyright 2003, Metropolitan News Company