LOS ANGELES – A state appeals court panel on Monday reversed the first-degree murder conviction of a defendant who was charged along with two other men, including former Raiders defensive end Anthony Wayne Smith, in an October 2008 killing in the Antelope Valley.
A three-justice panel from California’s 2nd District Court of Appeal agreed with the defense’s claim that there was “insufficient evidence” to support Dewann Wesley White‘s conviction on “a direct aiding and abetting theory” put forth by the prosecution.
Prosecutors used cellphone records to argue that White was involved in the shooting death of 31-year-old Maurilio Ponce, who was found dead on a rural road east of Lancaster.
The appellate panel ruled that evidence was not enough to conclude that White intended to kill Ponce or to help anyone else do so.
“White’s DNA and fingerprints were not found in Ponce’s Navigator, “an opinion by Justice Bruce G. Iwasaki read, recalling trial testimony. “No physical evidence linking White to Ponce’s murder was ever recovered.”
The panel directed the lower court to acquit White, who was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison.
This is the second conviction related to Ponce’s killing to be reversed.
In September 2014, an appeals panel made a similar finding of insufficient evidence against co-defendant Charles Eric Honest, who was also convicted on a theory that he had aided and abetted the murder.
Honest — who had a 1996 conviction for manslaughter — had been sentenced in July 2012 to 35 years to life in prison after being convicted of second-degree murder in Ponce’s killing.
As for Smith, jurors deadlocked in April 2012 on the murder charge against him and he was subsequently charged with three other murders while awaiting a retrial.
Smith is due back in court June 3 for a pretrial hearing.
Prosecutors have decided not to seek the death penalty against Smith, who was the Raiders’ top pick in 1990 out of the University of Arizona and went on to play for the Los Angeles and Oakland Raiders.