California Supreme Court voids two death row convictions
The state high court unanimously ruled that Cleamon Johnson and Michael Allen, convicted of killing rival gang members Peyton Beroit and Donald Loggins in 1991, were denied a fair trial when a judge removed a juror who appeared to be critical of the prosecution’s case.
In a ruling written by Justice Carol A. Corrigan, the court cited a lack of evidence to support then-Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Charles Horan’s decision to remove the juror for prejudging the case and relying on evidence outside the 1997 trial.
Johnson, known as “Big Evil,” headed a gang called the 89 Family Bloods during the 1980s and early ’90s that authorities contend was responsible for about 60 killings in South Los Angeles.
Johnson was convicted of ordering Allen to kill the two rival gang members with an Uzi. Johnson also was charged with a third killing and two attempted killings but another jury deadlocked on those charges in 1999.
In reversing the convictions that sent Johnson and Allen to death row, the state high court said the juror who was removed was deliberating properly and relying on experience, not bias, to evaluate a prosecution eyewitness.
“It may be argued that Juror No. 11′s conclusion was based upon a weak premise or rested upon an over-broad inference,” Corrigan wrote. “Jurors, however, are the judges of credibility, and conscientious jurors may come to different conclusions.
“It is not the province of trial or reviewing courts to substitute their logic for that of jurors to whom credibility decisions are entrusted.”
Tags: 89 Family Bloods, Big Evil, California Supreme Court, Cleamon Johnson, death row, Donald Loggins, gang leader, Michael Allen, Peyton Beroit, South LA