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7 Identify Suspect in Gang Shootings

July 02, 2002|JENNIFER SINCO KELLEHER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Seven witnesses came to court to identify Samuel Shabazz in five gang shootings, a volume of evidence a prosecutor called "staggering" Monday.

"It's possible for one eyewitness to be mistaken; the odds against seven witnesses being mistaken are astronomical," Deputy Dist. Atty. Anthony Manzella told jurors in closing arguments. "When you convict the defendant, you can say ... you participated in seeing that justice was done."

Jurors began deliberations Monday in the case against Shabazz for nine attempted murders and the killing of former Los Angeles Police Chief Bernard Parks' granddaughter, Lori Gonzalez, two years ago.

The defense attacked state witnesses, many of whom were gang members, and suggested that prosecutors made bad deals and that police planted evidence. Defense attorney Robin Yanes focused on Darrell Miller, who made a deal with prosecutors and had a lot to gain by identifying Shabazz.

Prosecutors "gave him his life," Yanes said. "He is absolutely worthless."

Miller, a member of a gang with ties to Shabazz's West Boulevard Crips gang, identified Shabazz in court as the man who shot Gonzalez.

Gonzalez was driving out of a parking lot after buying fast food in Southwest Los Angeles when she was shot in the head and chest a week before her 21st birthday. Police believe her passenger, Ernest Gray, a member of the Black P Stones Bloods gang, was the intended target.

Miller testified that Shabazz and his gang believed the car Gray and Gonzalez were driving had been used in a previous shooting. Miller spotted the car at a fast food restaurant and informed the gang members.

Manzella said jurors shouldn't discredit testimony from Miller, a convicted drug dealer and robber.

Shabazz "commits crimes in front of people like himself," Manzella said. "Whatever condemnation you make about Darrell Miller's life, you can make about the defendant's life."

The cases, including nine attempted murder charges, were consolidated over defense objections. If convicted, Shabazz, 20, faces life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Yanes said photographic lineups were misleading because Shabazz was the only dark-skinned male pictured.

"He's jumping right out at you. Look at how much darker he is than anyone else in there," he said, holding up the photos. Witnesses were told the pictures may or may not contain the suspect, and that they don't always reflect accurate complexion, Manzella said.

Police planted a bullet casing in his client's car, Yanes argued. He said officers changed their testimony about how long it took to search his car. Officers originally said the search took 45 minutes, and then later said two minutes, Yanes said.

"That's got to bother you," Yanes told jurors. "You've got to open your eyes--police like anybody else do things they shouldn't do."

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