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by Clifford Mosby

There are secret whispered codes that police and law enforcement use for certain crimes. One code is "NHI". This mean "No humans involved". This is usually used in a racial sense, referring to Black on Black crime, but in a recent crime I investigated for the defense, it sadly, very sadly seemed to be the case.

John R. is on trial for his life for murder in Torrance Superior Court. He is accused of one count of murder, three counts of attempted murder, escape, felon with a fire arm, robbery and auto theft. He is Black, 23 years of age, single, a high school drop out and a one-time honor student. He is a member of a Los Angeles Crip gang and is known on the street as "Baby Psycho".

He is slight and unassuming in stature. Fairly attractive, with a childlike face and short cropped hair. His father was a Black Muslim of the 60's who enforced a strict discipline in the home. However, John rejected it. His father left and his mother took up with a boyfriend who abused both her and John. John hit the streets at age 14. His mother is now a heroin and cocaine addict, now in a rehab center. His younger brothers and sisters are model children and good students. They are being raised by the maternal grandmother.

Last year in January, John was on parole, living in a halfway house. He had served time for shooting at a police officer. While living in the halfway house he was working part-time installing cellular telephones. He was enrolled in a career training school and apparently doing well in both. He was to be fully released from the half way house and supervised custody within a month.

Blocks away form John's home turf lived Ronald G., his two cousins and a friend known as Vera. They stayed in an extremely small one bedroom apartment building near Watts. Ronald held dice games at his apartment and is suspected of being a smalltime drug dealer. He met John while attempting to get an illegal cellular telephone hookup. John had visited the address several times, and was accepted and liked by Ronald, Vera and the cousins. The prosecution contends that John had visited Ronald's apartment to reprogram the illegal cellular telephone. He allegedly saw the money being generated in the dice game and the drugs. He is accused of returning to the apartment with the telephone and, once inside, producing a gun and a roll of duct tape. He gave the tape to Vera and forced her to secure the hands and feet of Ronald and the two cousins. He then duct-taped Vera. He then took their money, jewelry, drugs, and car keys. He had them lay face down on the floor, in a row.

He allegedly walked out of the door and then turned around and said: "You all know who I am, so I am going to have to kill you". He then walked behind Vera and shot her point blank in the back of the head. He then attempted to shoot the other three; however, his cheap pistol jammed and the three men were able to get up and hop out of the house and hop away. Allegedly, Ronald and the two cousins (one dressed only in his undershorts...he had been in the shower when John came) climbed a seven-foot chainlink fence with their hands and feet taped. (These days, criminals facing "Three Strikes" are less inclined to leave witnesses even to petty crimes.)

John became a fugitive for several months. He is accused of not returning to the halfway house, which legally is called escape. He was later captured and brought to trial. He faced the death penalty at age 23.

To career Black criminals and those of us involved in criminal defense, there is a rating for the various branches of the Los Angeles Superior Courts. Worst is Norwalk. It is referred to as "No walk". Second is Torrance, considered to be all white and racist. Third is Santa Monica known for wealthy liberals who see poor, homeless and Black people as being the root of their fear and discomfort. These are the sentiments of Black and white attorneys alike who are involved in criminal defense. This is primarily why there is an uproar that O. J. Simpson was not tried in Santa Monica where the pool of jurors would be less sympathetic to him.

Defense attorneys, who like to win, take these things into consideration when considering a court where their client is to be tried. At the time of the preliminary hearing, in July of 1995, the only victim the prosecution was able to locate was Ronald. The two cousins did not want to be found. Authorities found Ronald by accident and had to postpone the preliminary hearing twice because he would not come to court, although ordered to do so. They had to arrest him and hold him for the preliminary hearing and force him to testify. By the way, he came to court in a wheelchair because since the incident involving John R., Ronald had been shot in the back while standing in a liquor store. He testified that it was John who killed Vera and attempted to shoot him and the two cousins.

Now it is January of 1996 and time for trial in Torrance. The jury had one Black, who was an elderly, timid, conservative woman. There were no prosecution witnesses to testify. There were no victims to testify. Ronald and the two cousins could not be found and Ronald's testimony from the preliminary hearing was read to the jury by a white male in a suit and tie resembling Phil Donahue. The law says the reading of the transcript is to be treated as if the person is actually there on the witness stand, but psychologically, it is not. Psychologically, it is the transcript reader who appears to be actually testifying or, at the very most, the individual juror's imagination of Ronald, which could range from choir boy to Charles Manson.

John had no clothes to wear in court. For his appearances at trial, he wore a pair of pants and white shirt that had been left in the inmate lockdown area by another defendant who had gone on to his new home in Folsom. The pants were too large and had to be rolled up at the cuff several times. No belt was allowed to hold up the oversized pants. The clothes are left with the bailiff after each court session. There were no family members of Vera. No family members of the other victims in court. There were no friends or family members of John in court. No audience. The Deputy District Attorney who tried the matter had only received the case one week prior to trial. The officers who investigated the case and arrested John were not called to testify, and did not even come to court to assist the prosecutor with the court trial, which is the normal routine.

There was no evidence. None. Nothing. No gun. No bullet from Vera (it was unidentifiable). No Ronald, to say "he tried to kill me." No Ronald to say "he killed my friend." No fingerprints in the house. No fingerprints in the recovered car. No cellular telephone. Just the coroner saying that he examined the body of a black female who had been shot in the back of the head. And the transcript of Ronald from the July preliminary hearing, being read by a clerk, saying John did it. For the defense, I located three witnesses who told me that John was with them at a party in San Bernardino at the time of the murder. One failed to respond to trial after I served him with a subpoena ordering his appearance. Two young women did testify that John was with them at the San Bernardino party. Thier testimony had some minor inconsistencies. I testified that I could not scale the seven foot chain link fence with my hands and feet taped (although I never actually tried). And I testified that a police diagram was inaccurate.

After a day of deliberation, the jury came back deadlocked. Ten for guilty, two for not guilty. The prosecution now has to make a decision whether or not to retry John. One more hung jury and he goes free. The District Attorney's Office has to make the decision...if there are any humans involved.

Clifford Mosby is a licensed private investigator in Los Angeles

This piece is copyright by the author. It may be forwarded electronically, provided this notice is kept with it, but may not be otherwise reproduced without permission from the author. Thanks

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