Following a second trial ending in a hung jury, a judge dismissed a murder charge Monday in a North Park slaying that took place two decades ago.
LeRay Parkins, 71, was found in an alley off the 3700 block of 28th Street in August 2000. He suffered from skull fractures and died at a hospital three days later.
Prosecutors charged Edward Jamar Brooks, 39, in the slaying, which was believed to have been carried out with a baseball bat.
Co-defendants Lester Bell, 39, and Terrence Brown, 38, pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and robbery, respectively. They await sentencing.
Brooks’ attorney, Robert Ford, argued that Brown actually killed Parkins. The co-defendants, he said, two “lifelong friends” who grew up together in North Park, conspired to blame Brooks.
Ford called his client the “odd man out.”
In Brooks’ first trial jurors deadlocked 9-3 in favor of guilt. The second jury deadlocked 9-3 in favor of acquittal.
San Diego County Superior Court Judge David M. Gill exercised his discretion to dismiss the case against Brooks, leaving him eligible to be released from custody.
In making his decision, Gill said he did not believe a third jury would be able to agree to a verdict.
Prosecutors alleged the three co-defendants encountered Parkins in the alley and that Brooks struck him in the head with the bat. They also accused him of snatching the victim’s wallet from his right front pocket. That was corroborated by DNA evidence, according to Deputy District Attorney Christina Arrollado.
The men then allegedly went on a shopping spree with the victim’s credit cards hours later. Investigators discovered charges from a Spring Valley gas station and an Escondido clothing store.
According to the prosecution, Parkins was out for a morning walk when he was attacked.
Ford alleged that his client went to North Park with Bell and Brown on Aug. 23 to buy marijuana, but the dealer was not home.
The defense attorney said that as the trio prepared to leave, Brown got into a fistfight with Parkins. The victim was winning, Ford said, despite being much older.
The attorney alleged that Brooks, in an effort to break up the fight, grabbed Parkins by the arms and shoved him to the ground. One of the other men told him to grab Parkins’ wallet, which accounted for his DNA being on the victim’s clothing.
When the trio got back to their car, Ford alleged, Brown, embarrassed by losing a fight to an elderly man, grabbed a bat he kept in the car’s trunk. He found Parkins and bludgeoned him.
“(Brooks) had no intent to kill. He didn’t even have intent to rob until they told him to take his wallet,” Ford told the jury during the first trial. “Mr. Brown is skating away with a robbery charge in this case.”
Months after the killing, a baseball bat believed to be the murder weapon was found at a Spring Valley home frequented by the defendants. Authorities, however, lacked sufficient evidence at the time to arrest them.
The prosecutor said advances in DNA technology allowed investigators to retest the victim’s shorts in 2018. That turned up Brooks’ DNA.
Authorities arrested them in different states – Brooks in North Carolina, Bell in Colorado and Brown in Arizona.
– City News Service
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