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How a "Big Evil" Gang Leader Got His Death Sentence Reversed [UPDATED]
It's came down to one juror, specifically that one juror's dismissal; that's how Cleamon "Big Evil" Johnson, a South L.A. gang leader, managed to have his death sentence tossed out for two August 1991 murders.
Today the California Supreme Court today "unanimously ruled that the trial judge erred by discharging a juror during deliberations in the guilt phase of the trial for prejudging the case and relying on evidence that was not presented at trial," explains MyFoxLA.
Johnson, credited by local authorities for at least 20 killings, "was convicted in 1997 of ordering the deaths of two men as they sat at a car wash across the street from his parents’ South Los Angeles home," according to NBC LA. A onetime Boy Scout, Johnson rose in the ranks of the 89 family Bloods gang. At the time of his trial, authorities "called him one of the most cold-blooded killers in the city, with more notches on his belt than Richard Ramirez, the Night Stalker serial killer."
The trial was for the murders of rival gang members Donald Ray Loggins and Payton Beroit, who "were shot three times each while sitting in a white Toyota Supra parked outside a car wash in the 8700 block of South Central Avenue," in August 1991.
The juror in question, number 11, was dismissed because the court ruled they were using prejudice in forming opinions, however no evidence of the prejudice was discovered. By dismissing that juror, says today's ruling, the court was abusing its privilege.
According to Attorney General Kamala Harris, it is up to District Attorney Steve Cooley to determine if he will retry Johnson and a co-defendant. It is not clear yet if Johnson will be released, or what today's ruling will mean for his incarceration.
UPDATE: The ruling is not final for 60 days, during which time, prosecutors with the LA County DA's office will review the case and determine if they will retry Johnson and his co-defendant, according to City News Service.