In their opening statements Monday, the four defense lawyers also took on the role of prosecutors in the murder trial of their clients who are charged in the fatal south side barbershop shootout where a young mother died protecting her 2-year-old son from stray bullets.
The attorneys for Louis James Mitchell, 22, and Lonnie Orlando Mitchell, 27, said their clients acted in self-defense during the Dec. 14, 2010, shooting in which Monique Nelson was killed in the parking lot in front of the Fly Cuts & Styles barbershop on Stockton Boulevard.
They blamed the death, in effect, on James Leo Carney III, 34, and Larry Dean Jones Jr., 32 – whose lawyers in turn said those two were only defending themselves during the shootout in which one of the 35 bullets hit Nelson in the side as she leaned into her Chevy Tahoe and draped her body over her little boy in the rear car seat.
Deputy District Attorney Valerie Brown told the Sacramento Superior Court jury that all four defendants are guilty. A second person killed in the shootout, Marvion Barksdale, who was 20, also would be on trial if he were alive, Brown said. Two other men initially charged in the case, Dominique Lott and Charles Barksdale, pleaded guilty last year to voluntary manslaughter and have been sentenced to 21 years in prison.
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“In the end, what you’re going to find is that Monique Nelson died protecting her child when these four people, along with Marvion Barksdale, Charles Barksdale and Dominique Lott brought their battle to the streets of Sacramento, in that location, and they turned that location at 1 o’clock in the afternoon, 11 days before Christmas, into a war zone,” Brown said in her opening statement.
Brown said the shootout resulted from tensions set in motion three weeks before the barbershop confrontation. A friend of Marvion Barksdale accused Louis Mitchell of robbing him of $40, an eighth of an ounce of marijuana and his removable teeth jewelry known as a gold grill. A week later Barksdale beat up Mitchell, the prosecutor said.
Defense attorneys Michael Wise and Greg Foster have aligned with each other in defending Carney and Jones. They have paired off against Linda Parisi and Assistant Public Defender Amy Rogers, who are representing Louis and Lonnie Mitchell. Despite their different interpretations of self-defense, the defense attorneys shared a basic agreement with the prosecutor on what happened the day of the shootout:
Jones, armed with a .40-caliber pistol, had stopped into the barbershop with a friend just ahead of the Mitchells, who were in possession of an AK-47 assault rifle and a TEC-9 semi-automatic handgun. Jones, when he saw the Mitchells, called Carney from a cellphone. Carney in turn alerted Marvion Barksdale, and the two of them rushed down to Fly Cuts in separate cars and parked in lots to the north and west of the barbershop’s strip mall in the 6900 block of Stockton Boulevard. Carney carried a .38, Barksdale a 9 mm handgun that didn’t work.
Marvion Barksdale, who drove up with his cousin Charles Barksdale and Dominique Lott, approached the barbershop from across Stockton Boulevard and was fatally wounded somewhere between the street and the Fly Cuts front door. His friends hustled him to a hospital, where he died.
As the Mitchells took the gunfight outside to the barbershop parking lot, Carney, who was parked on the other side of Lindale Drive, fired on them. A bullet from his gun killed Nelson.
In making his case for Larry Jones, attorney Wise said Louis Mitchell came into the barbershop wearing the TEC-9 on a shoestring around his neck – “like a pendant, a necklace of death, if you will.” While Louis was getting his hair cut, his brother started doing a rap dance inside the barbershop, threatening to shoot the place up, according to Wise, which the attorney said made Jones nervous enough to call Carney for backup.
Wise said the atmosphere in the barbershop was “tranquil, it’s quiet, it’s festive, it’s peaceful until the Mitchells walked in. Then everything drastically changed.”
Jones felt “trapped” in the back of the barbershop by the Mitchells, and fired twice to make his way out, Wise said. The lawyer said his client had nothing to do with the Marvion Barksdale-Louis Mitchell feud.
“This was not his fight,” Wise said of his client.
Foster said Carney drove to the barbershop only to help out his friends. According to Foster, it was the Mitchells who came out of the barbershop “firing wildly” in every direction, killing Marvion Barksdale. Louis Mitchell, Foster said, was still wearing his barber’s cape while blasting the TEC-9.
“Mr. Carney fired back in an effort to defend himself and others who had been fired on by the Mitchells,” Foster said.
The Mitchells’ lawyers saw it differently. Rogers and Parisi did not dispute that their clients brought the AK-47 and the TEC-9 into the barbershop, but they said it was not clear who had control of which weapon.
Rogers said Jones set the violence into motion by calling Carney, “not because he’s trapped, not because he feels uncomfortable, but because he knows the enemy is there and it’s time to do something.”
“Basically, what happened is Larry Jones is calling the cavalry – ‘Come on down, the Mitchells are trapped. Let’s take care of business,’ ” Rogers said.
She said, “It’s the Mitchells who were trapped. Nobody else.”
Parisi said the Mitchells were “marked men,” so they armed themselves.
“Some may say that was not the best choice,” Parisi said. “But as it turns out, it was the only choice.”