A Los Angeles man labeled as emotionally disturbed by his lawyers was convicted by a Superior Court jury Friday of second-degree murder in the March, 1983, shooting of Los Angeles County Sheriff's Deputy Lawrence Lavieri.
Lionel Henry, 35, shot Lavieri after the officer and fellow Deputy Douglas Smith responded to a call about a suspicious person at a Carson service station.
After Henry repeatedly refused to get out of his car--which authorities later learned had been stolen in San Diego--an altercation ensued. Henry, prosecutors said, grabbed Lavieri's gun and proceeded to shoot both Lavieri and Smith.
Lavieri, 38, wounded at the station, was subsequently shot to death after chasing Henry on foot into a house on nearby Santa Fe Avenue. Smith has recovered.
The jury also convicted Henry of stealing both the auto and Lavieri's gun and of assaulting Smith with a firearm. The panel, which began hearing testimony May 1, has not yet concluded deliberations on a final attempted murder count stemming from Smith's wounding.
The prosecutor, Deputy Dist. Atty. John W. Ouderkirk, who had sought a first-degree-murder conviction, said he would withhold comment until the jury completes its work.
"I'm disappointed," said Ray Newman, a defense co-counsel. "I thought it should have been at worst a manslaughter. But under the circumstances, we'll take this."
During his closing arguments, Newman and co-counsel Cynthia Allen had argued that Henry, who held odd jobs, was "a sick person" forced to take anti-psychotic medication.
"I don't believe Lionel Henry formed the intent to kill that day, because of his mental disease," Allen said.
Newman also charged that the two deputies "blew it from the very beginning" because in answering the call, "they threw caution to the wind," thus allowing the incident to escalate. He suggested that the officers should have approached Henry with more restraint.
If Henry intended to kill the officers, Newman said, he could have finished them off at the service station.
Ouderkirk, in seeking a first-degree conviction and a possible death penalty, had asserted that the shooting was premeditated because Henry had plenty of time to give up before running into the house and fatally shooting Lavieri.
By rendering a second-degree verdict, however, the jury concluded that the shooting was not premeditated and did not show malice aforethought.
Henry could face 17 years to life in prison on the murder conviction when he is sentenced after the jury concludes its deliberations on the final count.