SAN DIEGO (CNS) - A gang member accused in the shooting deaths of two innocent bystanders as he fired on rival gangsters bragged to others that he opened fire to avenge the killing of a friend, a prosecutor said Monday, but a defense attorney said the defendant was home with his mother and son at the time of the murders.
James Lionel Carter is charged with murder and other counts in the killings of 45-year-old Carol Waites and 32-year-old Sharen Burton in Lincoln Park. Waites' 7-year-old nephew was also wounded.
The victims were caught in the crossfire after stopping at Dr. J's liquor store on Logan Avenue on their way home from church about 1 a.m. on Jan. 1, 2003.
Deputy District Attorney Robert Hickey said two carloads of gang members pulled up to the liquor store and an "incredible number" of shots rang out, probably more than 50.
Witnesses described the crime scene as "virtually like a war zone," Hickey said in his opening statement.
Shortly after the murders, authorities found writings in Carter's bedroom expressing his frustration that rivals were attacking his gang, which wasn't doing anything about it, the prosecutor said.
Hickey said the murders were in retaliation for the killing of Carter's close friend the day before.
After his friend's funeral, Carter was teased about the shooting and the fact that women were killed, the prosecutor said.
Carter said he "started shooting" and victims "were going everywhere," according to Hickey.
In 2004, a man in custody with the defendant said Carter told him he did the shooting at Dr. J's with two other men, the prosecutor told the jury.
Carter, now 37, told his cellmate he was "too slick to get caught," according to the prosecutor.
Seven years after the murder, police found writings in the defendant's jail cell in which he admitted "going on a popping spree for killing my boy," the prosecutor said.
Last year, the brother of Carter's friend who was killed in 2003 told authorities that Carter was the shooter who killed Waites and Burton.
Carter told the brother, "I jumped out (of the car) and started dumping. I didn't mean for (the) ladies to get killed," Hickey told the jury.
The defendant pulled off the "massacre" at Dr. J's for his gang and for his close friend, the prosecutor said.
Defense attorney Brad Patton, in his opening statement, said no witnesses identified Carter as a person involved in the Dr. J shootings.
The attorney said witnesses have given a number of different stories about who did the shooting and what kind of cars pulled up to the crime scene that night.
Some of the witnesses told police what they wanted to hear so they could be granted immunity; while others even fingered people who were in custody when the murders went down, the attorney said.
Carter's wife at the time said she was with the defendant the night of the shootings and there was no talk of revenge or weapons, Patton said.
The woman said she called Carter three times that night and he was home with his mother and son, according to Patton.
Besides two counts of murder, Carter is also charged with four counts of attempted murder and one count of conspiracy to commit murder.
He faces life in prison without the possibility of parole if convicted.
Carter's trial is expected to last until mid-June in the courtroom of Judge Kenneth So.
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