Mistrial as Sacramento jurors deadlock on 2011 gang killing

Published: Tuesday, May. 7, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1B
Last Modified: Tuesday, May. 7, 2013 - 8:26 am

A Sacramento judge declared a mistrial in a murder case Monday when a Superior Court jury failed to reach a verdict in a fatal gang shooting outside a south-area nightclub two years ago.

Deputy District Attorney Leland Washington did not say whether his office will try Marquis Pierre Young again, but defense attorney Frances Huey told the court that the prosecutor had informed her that he does intend to put the defendant in front of a jury a second time.

Judge Raoul M. Thorbourne scheduled Young's next court date for May 17.

Jurors told the judge they had voted 9-3 to acquit Young on the murder count. They also voted 7-5 that he wasn't guilty in another count of assault with a firearm.

They did, however, convict him of being an ex-felon in possession of a gun. Thorbourne scheduled Young's sentencing on the gun charge for June 7.

Young, now 30, was accused of slipping a revolver to one-time co-defendant Allen Wayne Benzler Jr. in the early morning hours of April 17, 2011, outside Warners Rendezvous Lounge, during a gang shootout in which Jesse Fowler, 29, was killed.

Prosecutors say it was a bullet from Benzler's gun that fatally struck Fowler. The 20-year-old Benzler, however, has since been declared incompetent to stand trial and was committed last month to a state mental hospital. His attorney, Paris Coleman, said Benzler has maintained his innocence and is looking forward to returning to Sacramento to contest the charges.

"Everyone expects Mr. Benzler is going to receive the treatment he needs and is going to be back, hopefully pretty soon," Coleman said "I don't see this being a long-term type of thing. He really wants to go to trial and my hope is to get him there. Right now, it's not possible."

Coleman declined to discuss the issues that led Judge Gary S. Mullen on March 20 to declare Benzler incompetent to stand trial, saying only that his client "was not able to assist me in the preparation of his defense" and that the prosecution "pretty much conceded the issue."

Mullen made his ruling after Benzler had been examined by a psychiatrist.

In his closing argument in the Young trial, deputy prosecutor Washington said that violence erupted outside the nightclub near Florin Road and Highway 99 after a confrontation between members of the G-Mobb street gang and some local Crips.

Inside the club, a G-Mobb affiliate called Fowler to come to Warners and help provide some muscle while his friends made their departure.

When the G-Mobb members came out of the club, a growing gathering of Crips confronted the rival set and gunfire broke out.

"Chaos took over as gunshots began flying from all directions," Washington wrote in his trial brief.

Jurors interviewed after Monday's verdict said a shortage of evidence on which bullet, and from which gun, killed Jesse Fowler made it very difficult for the panel to convict Young.

Forensic evidence showed that at least three guns were fired in the shootout, one of which was an AK-47 that witnesses said was retrieved from the trunk of a G-Mobb member's car and fired an estimated 20 times at the Crip rivals.

Washington charged that Benzler, an alleged Crip associate, fired anywhere from six to eight times. The prosecutor said three of his fellow gang members identified him as one of the shooters in interviews with police.

Two other people were injured by gunfire. One of them was an innocent bystander, a truck driver who had gone to the club that night with his girlfriend. The other person who was hit, Israel Washington, 39, was identified in the prosecution's court papers as being in the G-Mobb.

Prosecutors initially charged Israel Washington with assault with a firearm, but his case was eventually dismissed. The case against a fourth defendant in the case, Anthony Joaquin Sanchez Jr., 28, also was dismissed. Washington, however, still faces a weapons charge, although it was not clear Monday whether that case was filed as a result of the shootout at the Warners Rendezvous Lounge.

Call The Bee's Andy Furillo, (916) 321-1141. Follow him on Twitter @andyfurillo.

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