The man who fired the bullet that killed Monique Nelson during the south Sacramento barbershop shootout was defending himself from gunmen who were shooting at him and should be acquitted of murder charges, his lawyer said in his closing argument Wednesday.
James Leo Carney III’s lawyer conceded that his client “unfortunately and unintentionally” killed Nelson as she was trying to protect her 2-year-old son during the Dec. 14, 2010, shootout outside the Fly Cuts & Styles barbershop on Stockton Boulevard.
Carney, 35, was aiming at the two men who started the daytime gunfight – Louis James Mitchell, 22, and his brother, Lonnie Orlando Mitchell, 27 – and it is those two who are responsible for Monique Nelson’s murder, attorney Greg Foster said.
“An unintended killing in that situation falls on the people who started it,” Foster told a Sacramento Superior Court jury.
Closing arguments in the trial are expected to conclude today in front of Judge Kevin J. McCormick, with jury deliberations expected to follow.
Carney, the Mitchells and co-defendant Larry Dean Jones Jr., 32, all face murder charges in Nelson’s death, as well as assault with a firearm on four men who were injured by stray bullets. All of the defendants except Jones also face firearms-related charges.
Foster took issue with Deputy District Attorney Valerie Brown’s contention that the shooting was an act of mutual combat, a theory which, if the jury finds true, wipes out the self-defense argument for all four defendants.
The Mitchells, Foster said, brought an AK-47 assault rifle and an Uzi-style TEC-9 semi-automatic handgun to the barbershop the day of the shooting. Foster cited testimony from Jones and a friend of that defendant who said the Mitchells acted in an aggressive and threatening manner inside the barbershop in the moments before the gunfight began.
“They’re the ones who went out there with the intention to try and stir up the hornet’s nest,” Foster said.
Prosecutor Brown said in her closing argument Tuesday that the shooting was spurred by a robbery a week earlier by Louis Mitchell of a friend of Marvion Barksdale, an associate of Jones and Carney. Lawyers for the brothers said the robbery may never have taken place.
From inside the barbershop, Jones called Carney, who contacted Barksdale. When Barkdale showed up at the barbershop with a 9mm pistol, he was shot and killed by Louis Mitchell, Brown said.
Lonnie Mitchell’s lawyer, Assistant Public Defender Amy Rogers, denied that her client displayed either of the heavy weapons inside the barbershop or that he was stomping around the place threatening anyone.
Phone records show it was Jones and Carney who were the aggressors the day of the shooting, Rogers said. She argued it was the Mitchells who were trapped, with gunmen posted on the streets all around them and inside the barbershop, too, in the person of Larry Jones.
“They had no choice but to shoot because they’re stuck,” Rogers said of the Mitchells.
She said neutral witnesses inside the barbershop did not hear the threatening manner that was described in the testimony of Jones and his friend Ernest Stoute, a former defendant in the case whose charges were dismissed. Rogers placed responsibility for the killing of Monique Nelson on Jones and Carney, as well as on Barksdale.
“Everything’s OK until Mr. Jones starts making phone calls,” Rogers told the jury.
She added, “There was no aggressive talking, no aggressive action” by the Mitchells, who Rogers said only went to the barbershop to get their hair cut.
After the Jones phone calls, Barksdale showed up at the front of the barbershop with a friend and former co-defendant Dominique Marcell Lott, 31, who pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter, Rogers said.
Rogers suggested it was Barksdale who shot first, although forensic evidence did not show whether his weapon had been fired.
She began her argument Wednesday conceding that her client is guilty of possessing the AK-47 and the TEC-9. She said he needed them because he was going into a bad neighborhood that was filled with “scary gangs.”
Defense attorney Linda Parisi is representing Louis Mitchell,
who is accused of shooting a .45 handgun during the battle. The prosecution says Mitchell likely fired the shot that killed Barksdale. Parisi argued that it may have been a bullet from Larry Jones that fatally struck Barksdale, 20, who died later at Kaiser Permanente South.
Inside the barbershop, the Mitchells “were surrounded in a surprise attack,” Parisi said, by anywhere from five to nine gunmen, including Barksdale. Four of the men who Rogers and Parisi say surrounded the Mitchells were charged by the DA’s Office, including Lott and another one-time defendant, Barksdale’s cousin, Charles Barksdale, 33, who pleaded guilty before trial to voluntary manslaughter.