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Alleged gang member is convicted of murder in 49th Street Massacre

Charles Ray Smith, 41, was convicted in the shooting deaths of three people, including a 10-year-old boy, in South L.A. in 2006. He was armed with an AK-47 assault rifle.

May 18, 2010|By Jack Leonard, Los Angeles Times

An alleged gang member was convicted Monday of murdering three people, including a 10-year-old boy, on a quiet South L.A. street in an attack that became known as the 49th Street Massacre.

Charles Ray Smith, 41, repeatedly shook his head as the verdicts were read in a packed downtown L.A. courtroom. In the audience behind him, the mother of the 10-year-old victim wept quietly.

David Marcial had been riding his bicycle with his 12-year-old brother outside their South L.A. home on a warm June afternoon in 2006 when two gunmen opened fire. Among those killed in the attack were David, his uncle, Larry Marcial, 22, and a neighbor of the Marcial family, Luis Cervantes, 17. David's brother was shot but survived.

The slayings shocked the city and were part of a series of high-profile interracial gang crimes that stoked fears of a possible race war. The gunmen were described as black; the victims were Latino. Police said the dead were not connected to gangs but that they suspected the attackers were.

But prosecutors argued during the trial that race had little to do with the killings. They said the gunmen, armed with AK-47 assault rifles, mistook the victims as rival gang members in a bloody feud between two local gangs.

Jurors deadlocked in a trial on the charges last year. This time, a new jury deliberated about two weeks before finding Smith guilty of murder and attempted murder in the attack.

The panel also found him guilty of fatally shooting a construction worker three months before the 49th Street killings. The jury now must decide whether Smith should receive the death penalty.

Jurors deadlocked 10-2 in favor of convicting Ryan T. Moore, 36, who prosecutors said was the second gunman in the 49th Street shooting. Superior Court Judge David S. Wesley declared a mistrial in Moore's case.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Bobby Grace said his office had yet to decide whether to seek a third trial of Moore.

The prosecution's case against both defendants revolved around a key witness, Alicia Merceron, who admitted driving the car in the two killings. She identified Smith as a gunman in both shootings and testified that Moore was the second shooter in the 49th Street killings.

Defense attorneys accused Merceron, 26, of lying to save herself from the death penalty or a lengthy prison term. In exchange for her testimony, prosecutors allowed her to plead guilty to manslaughter, and she is expected to be sentenced to seven years in prison.

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