A Sacramento jury rejected a prosecution theory of mutual combat and found that one faction bore most of the responsibility for the gunbattle in a barbershop parking lot four years ago that killed a young mother who was protecting her 2-year-old son.
The panel found the brothers Lonnie and Louis Mitchell guilty of first-degree murder based on the mindset and the kind of guns they brought into Fly Cuts & Styles on Dec. 14, 2010, the day that a stray bullet shot during the midday gunfight killed Monique Roxanne Nelson, 30, as she draped her body over her son.
“The weapons that were brought were a little bit more than what people carry around in those neighborhoods,” the jury forewoman said of the AK-47 assault rifle and the TEC-9 semi-automatic handgun the Mitchells hustled into the Stockton Boulevard barbershop.
“They acted big and they acted in concert,” said the forewoman, who declined to give her name due to the circumstances of the case. “They were there to do something big. Their actions were deliberate and willful.”
Digital Access for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
Along with the Mitchells, the jury convicted James Leo Carney III – who fired the fatal bullet – of voluntary manslaughter.
The fourth defendant, Larry Dean Jones Jr., was acquitted Wednesday on all counts. The juror said the panel found that Jones fired in self-defense.
Nelson had gone to the strip mall the day of the shooting to have Christmas pictures taken of her son in a one-hour photo store near the barbershop. Deborah Nelson, the mother of the slain woman, called the jury’s verdict “a travesty.”
“I don’t think justice was served today in any fashion or form because the law according to what I know is that people who are involved in mutual combat have mutual consequences, and that didn’t happen today,” Nelson said. “I understand that according to some of the jurors, maybe the Mitchell brothers set it off. But they weren’t in this battle by themselves.”
In addition to murder, the jury found the Mitchell brothers guilty of shooting four other innocent people inside the barbershop. Carney, 35, and Jones, 32, were acquitted on those charges. Louis Mitchell, 22, and Lonnie Mitchell, 27, and Carney all were convicted of being ex-convicts in possession of firearms. Lonnie Mitchell also was found guilty of possession of an assault rifle.
Judge Kevin J. McCormick scheduled the Mitchells’ sentencing for Oct. 24. The judge ordered Carney, 35, back to court on Sept. 19. Carney is facing a term of up to 21 years in prison. Jones, who has other charges pending, remained in custody on $175,000 bail.
The Mitchells shot it out in the barbershop with Carney, Jones and two other men, Marvion Dashawn Barksdale, 20, who was killed in the gunfight, and Dominique Marcel Lott, 31, who was injured. Lott, along with Barksdale’s cousin, Charles Barksdale, 33, entered guilty pleas last year. Each was sentenced to 21 years in prison.
Authorities said the 12:59 p.m. shooting 11 days before Christmas exploded as a result of tension that had been building for about a week between Louis Mitchell and Marvion Barksdale, his one-time friend. According to investigators, Louis Mitchell had robbed a friend of Barksdale’s of $40, an eighth of an ounce of marijuana, and his “gold grill” teeth jewelry.
When Barksdale saw Mitchell a few days later at the SD Mart on Mack Road, he told Louis to return the gold grill. When Mitchell refused, Barksdale beat him up, Deputy District Attorney Valerie Brown said.
The morning of the shooting, defendant Jones and a friend went to the barbershop to get haircuts before doing some Christmas shopping, according to their testimony. Around noon, with an estimated 20 to 30 other people in the barbershop, the Mitchell brothers arrived, authorities said.
Somehow, Lonnie Mitchell sneaked the AK-47 and the TEC-9 into the barbershop, according to evidence at trial. His brother had a .45, investigators said. Jones testified that Lonnie Mitchell was shooting him dirty looks, which prompted him to call a friend – Carney – to come get him out of the barbershop.
Phone records showed that Carney, right after he got the call from Jones, dialed Marvion Barksdale, who was driving around with a woman and who later picked up his cousin, Charles Barksdale, and his friend, Dominique Lott. They drove to the barbershop. So did Carney.
Marvion Barksdale and Lott, armed with pistols, got out of their car, witnesses said, and walked up to the barbershop, where Louis Mitchell – still attired in his barber’s cape – came outside, and pulled out his .45 and shot Barksdale in the midsection. Lonnie Mitchell, who was right behind his brother, fired in multiple directions, including back into the barbershop, first with the TEC-9, and when it jammed, with the AK-47, jurors found. Carney, in a lot across Lindale Drive to the north of the barbershop and armed with a .38 handgun, shot back, and detectives say a bullet from his gun struck and killed Monique Nelson.
At trial, defendants Jones and Carney and their lawyers teamed up against the Mitchells and their attorneys. Each side claimed self-defense.
Mike Wise, the attorney who represented the acquitted Jones, said he was thrilled by the jury’s decision.
“We’re very excited, obviously,” Wise said. “What a fantastic result after a three-month jury trial that was arduous and tough.”
Wise said his client, who testified at trial that he only called Carney to get a ride out of the barbershop, “was clearly very credible.”
In blaming the Mitchells for Nelson’s death, Wise said, “It’s clear when you walk into a barbershop with a TEC-9 wrapped around your neck and an AK-47 shoved down your pants, that you’re looking for trouble, and Mr. Jones was not.”
Carney’s attorney, Greg Foster, said the Mitchells “walked into the barbershop armed to the teeth and ultimately initiated the gunbattle by shooting Marvion Barksdale.”
Foster said his client “feels very badly about the unintended death of Monique Nelson.”
Defense attorney Linda Parisi and Assistant Public Defender Amy Rogers represented Louis and Lonnie Mitchell. They argued their clients shot in self-defense when Marvion Barksdale approached the barbershop.
“We’re disappointed in the verdict and will file a motion for a new trial and an appeal,” Parisi said.
Brown, the deputy DA, said, “We respect the jury’s decision.” The panel’s placing most of the blame on the Mitchells is “not the way we saw it,” she said.
Added sheriff’s Detective Tony Turnbull, the lead investigator on the case, “I think they were all mutually culpable. That’s why we had them here. The jury obviously thought the Mitchells were more culpable, and that’s the verdict that came in.”
Deborah Nelson said the decision means her slain daughter’s “voice was not heard.”
“It’s a big joke against justice,” she said of the verdict. “It’s not bad enough that I lose my daughter and have to grieve every day about that, but now I can have no closure, no peace of mind, because the justice system let them go.”