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South L.A. murderer's death sentence upheld

A judge denies a sentence reduction for Kai Harris, 32, who was convicted of the 2004 killings of two people during a drug dispute at Nickerson Gardens housing project.

November 21, 2009|By Robert Faturechi

A judge denied a request Friday to reduce the death sentence for a man convicted of murdering two and attempting to murder two others in a South Los Angeles housing project.

Defendant Kai Harris, 32, along with another man, was convicted of the 2004 killing of a rival member of his gang in a drug dispute, before turning his gun on three women who witnessed the attack in an apartment.

Two of the women survived, but the third, Annette Anderson, 52, considered a pillar of the community, was killed. Her death spurred an outpouring of grief in the Watts neighborhood where she had lived all her life.

After the judge announced his decision, the slender and muscular Harris, his long hair in tight braids, turned to a half-dozen relatives sitting in the back of the courtroom and stared. He eventually forced a smile. Two young children, Harris' cousins, choked back tears.

Harris' family was friends with the two slain victims: George Brooks, who was involved in the drug dispute, and Anderson.

"You don't know how to feel now. You love both families," said Harris' aunt, Lavett Outlaw, who was dressed in black. "We have a great loss on both sides."

Harris and the other defendant, Donte McDaniel, allegedly entered an apartment in the Nickerson Gardens public housing project in April 2004, looking to settle a drug dispute. One of the two surviving women, who has since died of unrelated causes, suffered bullet wounds to the chest and face, shattering her upper jaw and palate. The other woman, Debra Johnson, later displayed rare courage in her fearless testimony against her attackers.

"The crime scene was so bloody" that the coroner's investigator said "she could taste a metallic taste in her mouth just from all the blood that had been spilled," said Deputy L.A. County Dist. Atty. Halim Dhanidina. "She had to throw away her work clothes."

Judge Michael Johnson called the crime "cruel and inhuman" and said the loss to family and friends was enormous. He rejected the defense's argument that Harris was intimidated by McDaniel into committing the murders. Harris is set to be executed at San Quentin State Prison.

robert.faturechi@latimes.com

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