Gang member convicted in 2003 liquor store slayings - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Gang member convicted in 2003 liquor store slayings

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SAN DIEGO (CNS) - A gang member who shot at rivals outside a liquor store in 2003 to avenge the killing of his close friend, killing two female bystanders and injuring a 7-year-old boy, was convicted Friday of murder and premeditated attempted murder.

James Lionel Carter, 37, faces a sentence of life in prison without parole.

A hearing was set for June 28 on a defense speedy trial motion and to confirm Carter's prior convictions.

After deliberating more than seven days, a jury convicted Carter of two counts of murder, three counts of premeditated attempted murder and one count of conspiracy to commit murder.

Jurors also found true special circumstance allegations of multiple murders and murder for the benefit of a gang. They deadlocked on one count of attempted murder.

In his closing argument, Deputy District Attorney Robert Hickey urged jurors to convict Carter for the shooting outside Dr. J's liquor store on New Year's Day 2003.

Carol Waites, 45, and 32-year-old Sharen Burton were killed in the shooting in Lincoln Park, and Waites' 7-year-old nephew was wounded.

The victims had stopped at Dr. J's on Logan Avenue on their way home from church about 1 a.m when the shots were fired.

According to the prosecution, two carloads of gang members pulled up to the store and an "incredible number" of shots rang out, probably more than 50.

Carter's gang was "enflamed" by the murder of his close friend, Thomas Brown, 24 hours earlier, Hickey said.

The prosecutor said Carter and his fellow gangsters shot at their rivals, who hid behind the victims' car.

"You know they killed innocent women who were in that parking lot," the prosecutor said. "Was he (Carter) the man who shot that AK-47?"

Up to six guns were used in the attack, with Carter firing the AK-47, Hickey told the jury.

The shooting in rival gang territory was for revenge, the prosecutor said.

"They had an entire day -- 24 hours -- to think about what they wanted to do," Hickey said. "They were fueled by a killing. This was something that had to be done. There's no question what the intent was in this case."

Afterward, Carter bragged to others that he had avenged Brown's death, the prosecutor said.

"This shooting crossed the line. They killed innocent ladies," Hickey said.

Defense attorney Brad Patton said prosecutors were relying on inconsistent, manipulated, coerced and bought evidence to try to convict Carter.

In his closing argument, Patton said that circumstantial and "snitch" evidence wasn't enough to convict his client.

Patton said Carter was home with his mother and son at the time of the murders.

Patton said several witnesses with long rap sheets were offered deals to testify for the prosecution.

"They're only pitching half the truth in this matter," Patton said of the prosecution. "How do you tell when a liar's not lying?"

Rap lyrics found in Carter's jail cell last year, which prosecutors claim are confessions to the murders, were nothing more than lyrics written by a man interested in going into the rap lyric production business, his attorney said.

Patton said the prosecution's theory of how the shootings went down doesn't fit the timeline of how things happened.

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