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Saturday, 18 June 2011

Eight and a half years after the shooting, a San Diego Superior Court jury convicted James Carter, 37, Friday of two counts of first-degree murder and other felony charges.


17:43 | , , ,

Antrone Waites used to talk to his mother on the phone every Saturday.

Usually, she’d ask about his children and whether he planned to take his family to church the next morning. Her faith was important to her, Waites recalled, a point the single mother impressed upon her two children.

“There were a lot of gangs around,” the 34-year-old said. “She kept us in church a lot. School or church.”

Carol Waites and a friend had just left a midnight service on New Year’s Day 2003, when they stopped at Dr. J’s Liquor store in the Lincoln Park neighborhood shortly before 1 a.m. to buy a fireplace log.

Moments later, Waites, 45, and her friend Sharen Burton, 32, were caught in a hail of gunfire — the unwitting victims of a prolonged gang war.

Eight and a half years after the shooting, a San Diego Superior Court jury convicted James Carter, 37, Friday of two counts of first-degree murder and other felony charges. Because of a special-circumstance allegation of multiple murders, he faces a possible sentence of life in prison without parole.

“It’s a relief,” Antrone Waites said. “Now we can have some closure.”

Burton’s family members could not be reached for comment.

Jurors in the case deliberated more than seven days before their verdicts were announced.

“We considered all the evidence extremely carefully,” said the jury foreman, who asked not to be identified in this story for safety reasons. He said the circumstantial evidence pointing to Carter’s guilt was “overwhelming.”

The panel split 9 to 3 in favor of acquittal on one count of attempted murder relating to Waites’ then-7-year-old nephew, who was hit several times while shielding Waites’ 2-year-old granddaughter in the back seat of Burton’s car. She was not injured.

Some jurors said it was unclear whether Carter intended to kill everyone in the area or just rival gang members.

Judge Kenneth So declared a mistrial on that count and scheduled a June 28 hearing, when a defense attorney is expected to argue that prosecutors waited too long to charge Carter, resulting in the loss of evidence and an unfair trial.

Carter, whom prosecutors described as a documented gang member, was indicted in June 2009, more than six years after Waites and Burton were gunned down outside Dr. J’s Liquor on Logan Avenue near Euclid Avenue. He was already in custody at the time on an unrelated robbery charge.

Deputy District Attorney Robert Hickey said it took years for some witnesses to come forward and for prosecutors to collect enough evidence to seek a conviction.

During a trial that lasted more than a month, they presented testimony from several witnesses — some with lengthy criminal records — supporting their contention that Carter fired the shots in rival gang territory as a retaliatory move for the killing of his friend, Thomas Brown, about 24 hours earlier.

At least three members or affiliates from a rival gang were in the area at the time, some of whom ducked behind Burton’s car when the shots rang out.

Hickey said the defendant had written rap lyrics that indicated his motive: Revenge.

“You hurt his people, he’ll respond with violence and death. … He’s writing about his state of mind,” the prosecutor told the jury.

Hickey said Carter was being teased by fellow gangsters about shooting innocent women and he defended his actions to three witnesses who testified during the trial. He also confessed to a relative of his deceased friend that the deed was done.

One witness testified that he saw Carter carrying an AK-47, the type of weapon used in the Dr. J’s shooting, on New Year’s Eve at an apartment complex police have described as a gang stronghold.

The evidence also showed that Carter sent his wife into a sporting goods store that same day to go “ammunition shopping,” Hickey said.

Carter’s lawyer, Brad Patton, argued that prosecutors had no forensic evidence directly linking his client to the killings. He said the case was packed with unreliable testimony from felons who had made deals with the prosecution in exchange for their cooperation.

“This evidence is inconsistent, manipulated, coerced, bought,” Patton told the jury.

In addition to the murder charges, Carter was found guilty of three counts of premeditated attempted murder and one count of conspiracy to commit murder.


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