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Man Guilty in 3rd Trial for Murder

After reversal of a 1994 verdict and a hung jury on retrial, Leif Taylor is again convicted of the 1993 fatal shooting of a Long Beach student.

July 25, 2006|Peter Y. Hong | Times Staff Writer

A Long Beach jury on Monday again convicted a man for the 1993 slaying of a graduate student from a prominent local family.

Leif Taylor, 29, had been found guilty in 1994 of killing William Shadden, but his conviction was reversed two years ago by a federal appeals court, which ruled that Long Beach police had coerced a confession.

Taylor, who is scheduled to be sentenced next month, has been in prison for the Shadden killing since he was 16. He faces a maximum prison term of life without parole.

Shadden's mother, Sandi Shadden, shook with emotion as the verdict was read. She and her husband, Thomas, are influential community leaders and philanthropists in Long Beach. Her eyes covered by dark glasses in the courtroom, she squeezed her husband's hand to steady her trembling.

Taylor had cried before the jury arrived in the courtroom, but he displayed no emotion as the verdict was announced. He was handcuffed and led out of the courtroom by bailiffs, as lawyers discussed sentencing dates with Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Joan Comparet Cassani.

Outside the courtroom, Sandi Shadden said she was pleased with the verdict, but expressed sympathy for Taylor's mother.

"I lose a son; she loses a son," she said.

Sandi Shadden said more needs to be spent on programs for troubled youths, to prevent them from turning to crime.

"Los Angeles County keeps cutting funds for rehabilitation and juvenile programs. We need to work with these kids; we do not want to lose them," she said.

Taylor's mother, wearing a California Bait Shop T-shirt, was led away crying by Michael Fletcher, one of her son's lawyers.

"Money talks," Taylor's grandmother said before walking away.

William McCabe, Taylor's older brother, said the jury convicted the wrong man. He also alluded to the prominence of the victim, saying it put his brother at a disadvantage.

"It was him against the whole city of Long Beach," McCabe said.

Taylor had been retried in January but that jury was unable to reach a verdict.

During the most recent trial, Deputy Dist. Atty. Patrick Connolly unearthed a new witness who said Taylor had told him he committed the crime. The witness said Taylor told him about the crime when it was reported in local newspapers.

Shadden, 26, a graduate student in English at Cal State Long Beach, was fatally shot May 31, 1993, as he bicycled home from his part-time job as a gondolier on the city's canals. His killing fueled fears of crime in the city and was invoked for years by residents and city officials promoting anti-crime measures.

Though raised just miles apart in the same city, Taylor and Shadden inhabited vastly different worlds.

Taylor's mother suffered mental and substance-abuse problems; he never met his father. Taylor was able to roam unsupervised and ran with a group of graffiti vandals.

Shadden lived with his family in the elegant canal-front section of Belmont Shore. His father, Thomas Shadden, a retired investment advisor, was involved in the staging of the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics and in the creation of the U.S. Sailing Center. He has served on boards at the Cal State Long Beach business school and the Memorial Medical Center Foundation.

After graduating from USC with an English degree, William Shadden spent the summer driving across the country, camping and writing poetry for his master's thesis. He was studying creative writing and planned to pursue a doctorate.

Police said Shadden was killed around midnight when he resisted two youths who wanted his bicycle. Taylor was arrested three months later. Police had developed leads from tips received after offering a $10,000 reward.

The 2004 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals opinion voiding Taylor's first conviction called police conduct in the case "unjustified and distasteful" and noted there was no physical evidence or witness against Taylor.

According to the ruling, Taylor was awakened by Long Beach police at his house around midnight and taken to the station for questioning. He asked to call his mother and was refused.

Long Beach Police Officer William MacLyman began Taylor's interrogation by thrusting his hand before the teenager's face to show him a diamond ring with the number 187 on it -- the state penal code statute for murder. MacLyman told Taylor he had two choices: Confess and serve a short sentence, or refuse to admit his role in Shadden's slaying and face a long prison term.

For 2 1/2 hours, Taylor insisted he had not shot Shadden. Then, the 9th Circuit ruling stated, MacLyman and Officer Craig Remine "broke his will." Police tape-recorded only Taylor's 11-minute confession.

Within the hour, Taylor was allowed to call Arthur Close, a lawyer he had befriended through a gang baseball team, and recanted his confession.

Shadden's killing had been the first homicide in Belmont Shore in more than a decade. His parents rallied their stunned community, prompting city officials to adopt a 10 p.m. beach curfew.

The Shaddens also formed Citizens and Business Against Crime, a group that backed anti-crime measures such as using dogs to search for drugs and weapons in the city's schools.

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