Leonard Hall Jr., left, sits in court Friday as a mistrial is declared; Judge… (Barbara Davidson, Los Angeles…)
A judge declared a mistrial Friday after a jury failed to reach a verdict in the case of an alleged gang member accused of fatally shooting a 5-year-old boy who was in a Spider-Man costume on Halloween.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Bob S. Bowers Jr. dismissed the jury after it deadlocked 9 to 3 in favor of convicting Leonard Hall Jr. in the slaying of Aaron Shannon Jr. The jury had been deliberating since Wednesday.
Aaron was fatally shot Oct. 31, 2010, as he showed off his new costume in the backyard of his great-grandmother's South Los Angeles duplex. A bullet fired from the alley behind the residence struck Aaron in the head. He died at a hospital the next day.
Prosecutors alleged that Hall, then 21, and Marcus Denson, then 18, were gang members who had crossed into a rival gang's territory, looking to shoot somebody. A spokeswoman for the district attorney's office said prosecutors plan to retry Hall but declined further comment. Denson earlier had pleaded guilty to two counts of attempted murder and one count of voluntary manslaughter. He is awaiting sentencing.
After the mistrial was declared, Aaron's grandfather said he was optimistic that justice ultimately would be served.
"In my heart and my mind, I'm sure that's the right guy," said William Shannon, who suffered a graze wound to the arm during the shooting and testified at trial. A few days after the shooting, Shannon said, he identified Hall from a group of photographs shown by police.
"I think the system is fair," Shannon said. "The thing is, the wheels of justice turn slowly. I understand that. My family understands that."
Shannon said Aaron was his only grandson, and he had bought the Spider-Man costume for the child.
The mistrial was a source of relief, at least temporarily, for Hall's mother, who said she was thankful her son wasn't convicted.
"I'm glad God was in there," said Deborah Mosby, clutching a green pocket Bible. "God knows he didn't do it."
Mosby said her son was wrongly accused and that "there have been nothing but lies coming out." She said that authorities just wanted to pin the murder on somebody and that Hall was not at the scene. The case has been "tainted from Day One," she said.
A key witness for the prosecution was Denson, who testified that Hall was the shooter.
Hall attorney Carol J. Ojo said that Denson set up her client to take the blame and that the two men never got along.
"Denson's a liar," Ojo said. "Denson was trying to protect himself from the beginning."
Ojo said that the evidence suggests that "Mr. Denson was the actual shooter." She alleged that detectives coerced witnesses to identify Hall.
Ojo said Hall "understood how difficult this case would be. When a child is involved, the emotional pull is very hard to overcome."
If convicted on all charges, Hall could face a maximum sentence of life in prison with the possibility of parole, according to the district attorney's office. He remains in custody in lieu of $4 million bond.