2 Latino gang members convicted of first-degree murder of Cheryl Green, potential witness
Two Latino gang members were convicted Thursday of first-degree murder in a hate crime trial surrounding the deaths of a 14-year-old black girl and a potential witness in the Harbor Gateway area of Los Angeles.
The panel also found to be true the allegation that the girl's killing was a hate crime.
The jury deliberated for less than two days in the case of Jonathan Fajardo, 22, and Daniel Aguilar, 23, both members of the 204th street gang. Fajardo was found guilty of killing Cheryl Green because she was black.
Both defendants were convicted of participating in the murder of a potential witness, 21-year-old Christopher Ash, who the gang suspected of talking to police about Green's killing.
Fajardo and Aguilar showed no emotion, staring blankly ahead, as their families sobbed in the audience.
Green was shot in December 2006 as she stood hanging out with friends in a driveway in broad daylight. Prosecutors alleged in trial that Fajardo was agitated from an earlier confrontation with a black man when he fired into the crowd of black youngsters. Three others were wounded in that shooting.
Ash's death came two weeks later. His body, stabbed more than 60 times and wrapped in a bloody blanket, was dumped on a roadside in Carson. The gang suspected him because police served a search warrant on his apartment but released him the same day, prosecutors said.
In the two-week trial, Fajardo's attorney disputed that Green's killing, which Fajardo admitted to in police interviews, was motivated by race, calling it an "accident that rose of fear and anger" and a "rash impulse."
Green's death sparked community outrage and widespread reaction from authorities and politicians about gang violence and black-Latino tensions in the neighborhood, a narrow stretch of Los Angeles between Torrance and Carson where graffiti with racial epithets were an everyday occurrence.
The girl's death was but one of a number of slayings in the area police believe were racially motivated.
-- Victoria Kim