LANCASTER – Former Raiders defensive end Anthony Wayne Smith was convicted Thursday of three Los Angeles murders, but a judge declared a mistrial on a fourth charge stemming from the 2008 shooting death of another man in the Antelope Valley.
Smith, 48, was convicted of the Nov. 10, 1999, shooting deaths of brothers Kevin and Ricky Nettles, who were kidnapped from a Los Angeles carwash, and the June 24, 2001, stabbing death of Dennis Henderson, whose body was found in a rental car in Watts.
Jurors found true the special circumstance allegations of multiple murders, murder involving the infliction of torture and murder during the commission of a kidnapping. But prosecutors are not seeking the death penalty against Smith, who faces life in prison without the possibility of parole when he is sentenced Dec. 21 at the Lancaster courthouse.
Superior Court Judge Daviann L. Mitchell declared a mistrial on a fourth count involving the Oct. 7, 2008, shooting death of Maurilio Ponce after jurors reported that they had not reached a unanimous verdict on first-degree murder.
Prosecutors are expected to decide later whether they want to retry Smith for Ponce’s killing.
The jury reached the verdict Friday, Oct. 30, after deliberating over portions of eight days, but it was ordered to remain sealed because Smith’s attorney was not available Friday, and some jurors could not return to court until Nov. 5, said the district attorney’s spokesman, Ricardo Santiago.
Following a written inquiry by one of the jurors to the judge about how the verdict forms were handled for the Ponce killing, the judge noted that the verdict form for first-degree murder had been left blank and the verdict for second-degree murder had been filled out.
The judge refused to allow the prosecution to strike the first-degree murder charge or to send the jury back for more deliberations on first-degree murder, finding that the latter could be perceived on appeal as pressure for the jury to reach a verdict on that count.
Since there was no verdict on first-degree murder for Ponce’s killing, the judge instructed the jury’s foreman to change the verdict form for second-degree murder so it would be left blank.
Jurors were deadlocked 9-3 in favor of finding Smith guilty of first-degree murder on Ponce’s killing, the jury’s foreman told the judge.
Outside court, defense attorney Michael S. Evans said he was concerned about the jury’s verdict on the remaining counts given jurors’ confusion about the law on the charge involving Ponce’s killing. He said he intended to file a motion seeking a new trial on that basis.
Smith’s attorney said he had to “respect” the jury’s verdict whether he agreed with it or not.
Deputy District Attorney Jonathan Chung said outside court, “I believe they came back with a just verdict.”
The prosecutor said the District Attorney’s Office will have to decide whether to retry Smith on the final murder count.
A previous jury also deadlocked in April 2012 on the murder charge involving the killing of Ponce, who was found shot to death near the Antelope Valley poppy fields, about 11 miles west of Lancaster. While he was awaiting retrial, Smith was charged with the other three killings.
On Nov. 10, 1999, brothers Ricky and Kevin Nettles were abducted from their car wash business in Los Angeles by Smith posing as a police officer, prosecutors said. The two victims were tortured and killed and found the next day, according to court testimony. Both were found with their heads wrapped in duct tape, and Ricky Nettles’ stomach had been branded with a burn in the shape of a clothing iron, according to court testimony.
On June 24, 2001, Dennis Henderson was abducted in Mar Vista by Smith and then beaten and stabbed to death, according to evidence presented at the four-week long trial. His body was found in a rental car in Watts.
Smith, the Raiders’ top pick in 1990 out of the University of Arizona, played for the Los Angeles and Oakland Raiders between 1991 and 1997.
He has been jailed since his arrest in March 2011.
Editor’s note: Story has been updated to include more details.
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