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People v. Beckley

June 9, 2010


APPEALS from judgments of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County. Arthur M. Lew, Judge. Affirmed as modified and remanded with directions. (Los Angeles County Super. Ct. No. TA094886).

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Rothschild, J.


In this opinion we hold that the prosecution's failure to authenticate a photograph and "gang roster" downloaded from internet web sites should have barred their admission but that the errors were harmless as to both defendants. We also conclude there was insufficient evidence to support the street gang enhancement of each defendant's sentence. We modify the judgments as to each defendant by striking the street gang enhancements. We further modify Finn's judgment by striking the gun use enhancements under Penal Code section 12022.53, subdivisions (b) through (d) and remand for resentencing. In all other respects, we affirm the judgments.


Following a jury trial, Albert Jerome Beckley, Jr., and Darrell Amont Finn were each convicted of one count of first degree murder and two counts of attempted premeditated murder. The jury also found true as to each defendant the gang-benefit enhancement allegations under Penal Code section 186.22, subdivision (b)*fn2 and the firearm use allegations under sections 12022.53, subdivisions (b), (c), and (d). The court sentenced each defendant to a term of 50 years to life consisting of 25 years to life for the murder and a consecutive 25 years to life for firearm discharge by a principal resulting in death during a gang-benefiting offense (§ 12022.53, subds (d) and (e).) Sentences on the remaining counts and enhancements were imposed to run concurrently or stayed.

We summarize the evidence in the light most favorable to the judgments.

In late April 2007, the Mahone brothers, Matthew and Jamal, attended a party in Compton where Jamal got into a fight. After the fight, Jamal agreed to meet his opponent for a rematch in Southside Park, a park claimed by the Southside Crips as their territory. About 50 people were waiting for Matthew and Jamal and their 20 to 25 friends when they arrived at the park. The fight lasted about nine minutes. Jamal lost. Afterward, Matthew fought with Beckley and knocked him out. The two groups then fought each other. When the fighting ended, Matthew considered the "problems" between him and the other group had been settled.

Approximately two weeks later, while walking home, Matthew saw Beckley and Finn near a liquor store. Beckley called out to Matthew, "Southside Compton Crips." Matthew walked away and did not respond. He knew Beckley and Finn only by their gang monikers, "Bluebird" and "Little Freaky."

On May 14, 2007, at approximately 7:30 p.m., Matthew and Jamal were standing outside their residence, within territory claimed by the Neighborhood Crips, a rival of the Southside Crips. Rene Duncan, Jerrica Allen and Andrew B., a minor, were also present. A car passed by twice before stopping in front of the house. The brothers spoke with the two female occupants of the car for a few minutes. The women accused the brothers of involvement in a club shooting the prior week. When the women asked Jamal his name and nickname, he responded, Jamal and Maleemal. After the women drove off, Matthew advised everyone to go inside because he thought they were being set up for a drive-by shooting.

Within minutes, a tan or silver car similar to the one driven by the woman drove by. Finn was the driver and Beckley, along with one or two others, was a passenger. Beckley, who was seated behind the driver, pulled himself partly out of the rear window and fired at Matthew, Jamal and Duncan from over the car's roof. Jamal died from a single gunshot wound to his chest. A bullet grazed Duncan's forehead and struck the side of her foot. Matthew was unharmed.

Detective Joseph Valencia, the People's gang expert, testified that Beckley and Finn were members of the Southside Compton Crips. In his opinion, this drive-by shooting was in retaliation for the earlier fight in the park and "directed at members of the Neighborhood Compton Crip street gang." Valencia also testified, however, that neither Mahone brothers was a member of the Neighborhood Crips. Another police officer testified at trial that Beckley admitted to him in April 2007, that he belonged to the Southside Compton Crips.

Finn fled to Seattle shortly after the shooting. He was in custody there on another matter when he was interviewed by Detective Brian Schoonmaker of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. In the interview Finn admitted that he belonged to the Southside Compton Crips and that he was known to his friends as Little Freaky. Finn also admitted that he was near the Mahone brothers' residence when he heard the gunshots on the night of May 14th and that he knew he was wanted for murder before he left for Seattle.

Finn did not testify.

Beckley presented a defense based on alibi and mistaken identity. He testified that he had been a Southside Compton Crips gang member but denied active membership after he began dating Kyeera Fulmore in February or March 2006. He stated that he knew Finn through working as a disc jockey at Finn's parties in Long Beach. He denied that Finn was a Southside Compton Crips gang member. Beckley also denied that he killed Jamal, had fought with Matthew at the park or had seen him at a liquor store.

Beckley's girlfriend, Fulmore, testified that Beckley babysat her two-year-old daughter at his Long Beach house while Fulmore attended classes at Camilla College from 4:00 p.m. until 10:00 p.m. Monday through Friday. She stated that she attended class the night of May 14th and presented documentary proof of her attendance. She denied associating with gang members and stated that when she began dating Beckley she insisted he stop "running with the [gang]" and was sure that he had complied with her demand. She further testified that she had never seen Beckley and Finn together.

Tiffany Garcia testified that immediately after the shooting she saw four or five individuals in a tan car. Someone she knew as "Brim," "Dossey," or "Dorsey," not Beckley, was the person in the back seat.

In rebuttal to Beckley's and Fulmore's testimony denying Beckley's gang involvement, Detective Schoonmaker testified regarding gang-related evidence he recovered from the ...

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