LANCASTER – A judge refused Monday to provide personal information about Antelope Valley jurors who convicted Anthony Wayne Smith to a defense attorney hoping to pursue a juror misconduct claim in an effort to win a new trial.
Smith, 48, had been scheduled to be sentenced today, but Superior Court Judge Daviann L. Mitchell delayed the hearing until Jan. 22.
The former Raiders defensive end was convicted last month of the Nov. 10, 1999, shooting deaths of brothers Kevin and Ricky Nettles, who were kidnapped from a Los Angeles car wash, and the June 25, 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.
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 announce at the Jan. 22 hearing whether they want to retry Smith for Ponce’s killing.
In court Monday, defense attorney Michael S. Evans asked for identifying information about jurors in an effort to prepare a motion for a new trial. He contended that there may have been juror misconduct, claiming one juror form had been wrongly filled out. He also said the jury improperly asked for a cell phone charger so they could look at Ponce’s cell phone during deliberations, and improperly requested a PowerPoint presentation used by a prosecutor during closing arguments. Both of the jury’s requests were denied during the trial.
Mitchell refused to provide Evans with the jurors’ information, saying she doesn’t believe the panel’s requests suggested any misconduct.
“I don’t find any one of those things that they did out of the norm,” the judge said.
She also said it would be a leap to think that because the jury had trouble filling out one jury form that they erred on all of the others.
Outside court, Evans said he wasn’t sure if he would still pursue a motion for a new trial in light of the judge’s refusal to provide contact information about the jurors. He said he wanted to speak to at least one of them, saying there was “possible misconduct.”
A previous jury also deadlocked in April 2012 on the murder charge involving the killing of Ponce, who was found dead 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.
The Nettles brothers were found with their heads wrapped in duct tape a day after they were abducted. Ricky Nettles’ stomach had been branded with a burn in the shape of a clothing iron, according to testimony during Smith’s preliminary hearing.
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.
Evans said Smith is obviously “disappointed” that he was convicted, “but I think he’s a really strong person.”
“He’s held up extremely well through all of this, shown a lot of class through all of this, so I think he’s going to be fine,” Evans said.
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