Asian Boyz gang shot-caller should get life in prison, jury says [Updated]
A jury on Monday voted for life in prison without the possibility of parole -- and not the death penalty -- for a gang shot-caller convicted in connection to eight killings and 10 shootings in the San Fernando and San Gabriel valleys.
Jurors convicted Marvin Mercado, 37, on the charges last month in Los Angeles County Superior Court. Police said Mercado was the shot-caller of the Asian Boyz gang, which by the mid-1990s was 200-strong, with the bulk of its members in Southern California. The slayings all occurred in the mid-1990s. Seven of Mercado's co-defendants were convicted in 1999, but Mercado eluded authorities for more than a decade by escaping to the Philippines.
During the trial for his co-defendants, a Los Angeles Police Department detective described the spate of violence as "summer madness."
"They did it just for fun," Det. Larry Dolley said in 1998 on the eve of the first trial.
[Updated at 3:55 p.m.: After the verdict was read, Mercado looked stunned.
His attorney, Robert Schwartz, said he had warned Mercado that the best outcome was likely a hung jury following emotional testimony from victims' family members during the sentencing phase of the trial.
"Some jurors were so moved I thought they would never be willing to give life without parole," Schwartz said.
Schwartz said he believed the jury was swayed by a county jail chaplain who testified to the "process of redemption" that Mercado underwent while imprisoned. Mercado's wife's family also testified that Mercado lived a crime-free existence for more than a decade after he fled the United States to the Philippines.
While in the Philippines, he "lived a righteous life. He rejected a life of crime," Schwartz said.]
[Updated at 4:20 p.m.: Prosecutor Hoon Chun said the verdict is disappointing to the victims' families, who still have not recovered from the slayings.
Mercado was convicted in connection to eight murders and 10 shootings. Although two were gang-related, the six others were "completely innocent," Chun said.
He also dismissed the argument that Mercado had redeemed himself -- and said that he used a false identity and even deceived his wife while fleeing to the Philippines to escape punishment.
"He was on the run for 10 years and then fought deportation for a little less than two years," Chun said. "I'm not sure you can call that redemption."]
The gang initially participated in property crimes that targeted Southeast Asian immigrant businesses. But their downfall began when they started targeting rivals, police said.
Mercado was convicted in connection with the April 1995 execution-style slaying of two rival gang members in Van Nuys and a car-to-car triple fatal shooting in August 1995 on the 10 Freeway in El Monte.
Prosecutors also presented evidence that Mercado went to a party in March 1996 and pulled the pin on what he believed was a live grenade, throwing it into a crowd while co-conspirators opened fire on party-goers, killing one and injuring two others. He was also linked to at least two other slayings.
[Corrected at 4:25 p.m.: An earlier version of this post gave an incorrect age for Mercado. He is 37.]
-- Shan Li
Photo: Marvin Mercado shown in a police photo in 1997. Credit: Los Angeles Times