Penalty phase underway in crime spree case - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Penalty phase underway in crime spree case

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SAN DIEGO (CNS) - Prosecutors are expected to give their opening statement Wednesday in the penalty phase of trial for a man convicted of going on a violent two-year crime spree, which included the murders of two people during a 2005 home-invasion robbery in Valencia Park and the 2007 slaying of a man and the wounding of his girlfriend.

Michael Baraka Mason, 36, was convicted a week ago of three counts of first-degree murder, false imprisonment and special circumstance allegations of murder during a robbery and multiple murders. Jurors also found the crimes were committed for the benefit of a street gang.

Jurors will now determine whether Mason will face the death penalty or life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Deputy District Attorney Anthony Campagna told the jury that Mason was one of several masked robbers who burst into a home on Nov. 25, 2005, and held five people hostage before shooting 31-year-old Meico McGhee and 25-year-old Sacha Newbern. The victims, forced into a bathtub before being shot at close range, died at a hospital the next day.

The prosecutor said Mason "chose to execute" the victims and "chose" to flee. He was caught in Las Vegas in November 2007 after being featured on "America's Most Wanted."

Mason left DNA and other evidence behind that exposed him "as the multiple murderer that he is," Campagna said.

Mason was also convicted of murder and attempted murder in the July 14, 2007, shooting death of 30-year-old Tim Traaen and the wounding of his girlfriend during an attempted armed robbery in Normal Heights.

Police said Traaen and his girlfriend had just left a bar and were about to get into their car on Suncrest Drive when a gunman approached and demanded money just after midnight. Another defendant, Tamoyia Morris, faces a retrial on the 2005 murders after a jury deadlocked on those charges.

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