An absent juror led to a postponement Tuesday of closing arguments in the murder trial of two suspected gang members accused in a pair of fatal shootings that took place years apart in La Mesa as part of a gang feud.
Closing arguments are now slated to take place Wednesday morning at the downtown San Diego courthouse in the trial of Donte Haddock and Anthony Frank, both 28.
They face life imprisonment without the possibility of parole if convicted of murder, attempted premeditated murder and conspiracy to commit murder, with a special circumstance allegation that the killings of Xusha Brown Jr., 22, on May 5, 2013, and Darris Walker, 20, on April 30, 2011. were carried out to benefit a street gang.
A third defendant, 29-year-old Alaeante Eason, pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and awaits sentencing next month.
Deputy District Attorney Sophia Roach alleged in her opening statement that the defendants both fired on Walker as he sat alone in the back seat of a car parked in the lot of a restaurant on Alvarado Road.
“Two years later, they would kill again,” she said, referring to the shooting death of Brown, a member of the Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation.
The prosecutor said Brown was an unintended target who was in the wrong place at the wrong time. He was riding in a car on eastbound Interstate 8 in La Mesa when shots fired from a silver or light gray sedan hit him in the head and wounded the driver, Malcolm Hune, according to Roach. The car belonged to Haddock, who was driving while Frank emptied a pistol into the vehicle with the intention of killing Hune, she alleged.
The prosecutor said the car could be seen on surveillance footage circling a gas station where Hune and Brown were fueling up just before the shooting. Days afterward, the car was posted for sale on Craigslist, presumably in an attempt to get rid of the evidence, Roach said.
The prosecutor alleged that Frank told some witnesses that he killed Brown, while text messages implicated Haddock in the killing.
Haddock’s attorney, Jane Kinsey, said her client was staying with a woman on the night of Brown’s killing, which she said would be corroborated by the woman and several other witnesses. She also said that on the night of Walker’s killing, Haddock’s cell phone showed he was nowhere near the shooting scene.
Kinsey told jurors that the prosecution could not definitively prove her client’s involvement in either shooting and thus would spend much of the trial focusing on his gang affiliation and the protracted gang feud to distract from the real issues at hand.
“Don’t get bogged down in a lot of the side events,” Kinsey said. “The gang feud is not the issue. The question is whether this young man is guilty of these crimes.”
Frank’s attorney, Richard Jayakumar, claimed Eason — in a bid to raise his standing within the gang — was actually the man who killed Brown. Jayakumar said Eason and Hune had previous issues with each other, culminating in Eason’s attempt on Hune’s life, which “tragically” resulted in Brown’s killing.
Jayakumar also argued that there was no physical evidence tying Frank to Brown’s murder and called the investigation against his client “flawed and misdirected” and based on “lies and rumors.”
In the case of Walker’s murder, Jayakumar said his client and the victim were friends, and that Frank would have no motive for killing Walker.
Eason, Haddock and Frank were arrested in 2016.
— City News Service
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