RIVERSIDE – For the second time in a year, a jury could not reach a verdict in the penalty phase of the trial of a Los Angeles gang member who shot and killed a 13-year-old boy, prompting a judge today to declare another mistrial.
Jurors began deliberating the fate of 32-year-old Lewis Gray on Wednesday. The foreman reported today to Riverside County Superior Court Judge Christian Thierbach that the jury was hopelessly deadlocked, resulting in another mistrial. The jury’s vote on its sentencing recommendation was not disclosed.
The jury in the initial penalty phase split 10-2 in favor of recommending the death penalty.
The jury for the retrial of the penalty phase convened nearly three weeks ago.
Thierbach scheduled a status conference in the case for Nov. 30, when the prosecution is expected to announce whether it will seek a third penalty phase or accept a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole for the defendant.
Gray was convicted in November 2011 of shooting and killing Daveon Gray at a ”Sweet 16” birthday party in Corona. The defendant, convicted of first- degree murder and special circumstance allegations of killing for the benefit of a street gang and committing a murder while a fugitive from justice, is eligible for the death penalty.
According to trial testimony, Gray fatally shot Daveon on Oct. 12, 2002, while firing into a crowd outside a house on Kilworth Drive. The victim was among 150 youths celebrating a friend’s 16th birthday when Gray and fellow gang members crashed the party.
The men, members of the Los Angeles-based Hoover 94 street gang, had gone to the location searching for a 17-year-old boy whom Gray wanted to beat up for disrespecting him on an earlier occasion, according to witnesses.
The defendant and his friends pounced on the teen, prompting adult chaperones to order all the partygoers to leave.
According to Deputy District Attorney John Aki, Gray and five co- defendants fired at least 20 rounds at the house, striking only Daveon, who was shot in the back of the head.
Gray, his brother, Mario, and five others were arrested and charged in connection with the case four years later. All have been convicted. Only Gray faced the death penalty.
Before and after Daveon’s murder, Gray engaged in numerous acts of violence, according to the prosecution.
The defendant killed a Los Angeles man, and allegedly attempted to kill two men on the Cal State San Bernardino campus eight days before the birthday party attack.
The two victims testified that, without provocation, they were shot at while parking outside a building where a frat party was raging. The driver, Norris Ellington of Los Angeles, said he suffered four gunshot wounds. He could not identify his assailant but did acknowledge that the shooter resembled Gray.