Prosecutors administered another dose of immunity Wednesday to obtain some more key testimony into what happened the day a young mother was killed while protecting her 2-year-old son during a shootout at a south Sacramento barbershop.
This time, Deputy District Attorney Scott Triplett made the promise to Justine Harrington that nothing she said on the witness stand could be used against her.
Harrington, 21, was driving two days after the Dec. 14, 2010, shooting when one of the principals was stopped and arrested in Southern California during an attempted escape to Arizona.
Like he did the day before with Harrington's younger brother Gino, Triplett suggested in his questioning that the young woman may have been more than an accessory after the fact.
The prosecutor all but accused the Harringtons of bringing an AK-47 assault rifle, a TEC-9 machine pistol and a couple of handguns to her two cousins just moments before they shot it out with four rivals at Fly Cuts & Styles on Stockton Boulevard. Like her brother, Justine Harrington denied running any sort of firearms delivery service for her cousins.
Testifying in the third day of a preliminary hearing, Harrington did say she backed her car into a parking space directly in front of the barbershop. She did say she saw her cousins, Lonnie Orlando Mitchell Jr., 25, and Louis James Mitchell, 20, run out of the barbershop during the gunfire with their weapons blazing. She did say one of them was still wearing his barber's cape from having his hair cut and that "I yelled for them to get in the car" so she could hustle them away.
The Mitchell brothers are charged with murder and assault with a deadly weapon in the gunfire that took the life of Monique Nelson, 30, who laid her body across the back seat of her sport-utility vehicle to protect her 2-year-old son Jayden before a stray bullet killed her. They also are charged with assault with a deadly weapon in injuries to five other men.
Four rivals of the Mitchells face the same charges in the hearing under way in front of Sacramento Superior Court Judge Ernest W. Sawtelle. They are Charles Barksdale, 31, Larry Dean Jones Jr., 30, James Leo Carney III, 33, and Dominique Marcell Lott, 29.
Besides Monique Nelson, Charles Barksdale's 20-year-old cousin, Marvion Dashawn Barksdale, also was killed in the shootout. Prosecutors said Marvion Barksdale was a main instigator in the shooting that emerged from a dispute he had with one of the Mitchells. No murder charge was filed in connection with his death.
In her testimony Wednesday, Justine Harrington said she went to the barbershop the day of the 12:59 p.m. shooting only to take her brother in for a haircut. She told police in an interview that she got an inkling something serious was afoot when Lonnie Mitchell met her in the parking lot and said there was somebody inside the barbershop "looking at me funny."
Triplett needed to show her the police report to jog her memory on that detail. She testified she then had her younger brother go sit in Lonnie's black Pontiac parked in a lot down the block. Sitting in her car, she said, she then looked in her rearview mirror and saw Marvion Barksdale whom she knew by his nickname of "Beefy" walk into the barbershop.
"I just had a bad feeling," Harrington testified, when she saw Marvion Barksdale's entrance. "(Lonnie) said they were looking at him funny, and then Beefy walks up."
Gunfire exploded just seconds afterward. "It sounded like it was surrounding me," Harrington testified. Investigators later said the gunmen fired an estimated 35 shots.
Harrington said she ducked down in her car, but came up to see her cousins toting the AK-47 and the TEC-9 and blasting away. "Yeah," she said. "They were shooting."
When it subsided, she called them over to her car and drove them to the house of a friend they identified as "Lalo."
Meanwhile, she said she had Lonnie Mitchell call her brother and tell him to drive Lonnie's car home. Her brother testified Tuesday it was his sister who called him, not Lonnie.
The witness said she remembered no details of her conversation with the cousins on the way to Lalo's house. Nor could she place in her mind's eye ever having seen the big guns in her car.
In the aftermath of the shooting, Harrington testified Lonnie Mitchell asked her to drive him to Arizona to see his father, whom he had never met. She agreed, and the two of them took off two days later, but were stopped on the Grapevine, where Mitchell was taken into custody.
The hearing is scheduled to resume today, take up a half-day on Monday and then run for three or four more full court days that have yet to be scheduled.