A Gardena man was found guilty of voluntary manslaughter Monday for killing a businessman who laughed at him when the pastrami fell out of his sandwich at a Western Avenue doughnut shop.
Ronald Eugene Murray II, 26, appeared to sigh in relief as a Torrance jury first found him not guilty of second-degree murder, choosing the lesser offense of voluntary manslaughter.
"The defendant got a fair trial and we got a fair verdict," Deputy District Attorney Jennifer Turk said. "I think justice is served."
Murray could have faced 15 years to life in prison if convicted of the murder charge, but will now be sentenced to a maximum of 11 years in prison at a March 4 appearance at the Torrance courthouse.
Turk said Murray punched and kicked 56-year-old New Jersey resident Mun Jang so hard on Oct. 1, 2011, that Jang died in a hospital two days later. A kick to the head proved to be the fatal blow.
Neither man knew each other, but Murray and Jang had patronized Donut King, at 15032 S. Western Ave., at 3:30 that morning. Jang, who was visiting Los Angeles on business, went for an ice cream. Murray purchased a pastrami sandwich and was particular with his order, asking for tomatoes, lettuce and mayonnaise, but no onions or jalapenos.
Jang, who was with a friend, watched as Murray took a bite. Some of the meat fell out, Turk said.
Jang laughed, angering Murray, who snapped, "Who you laughing at?" He became even more upset when the clerk behind the glass refused his request for another sandwich at half-price, Turk said.
"The real focus of his anger were the people who would not give him a sandwich," Turk said. "The only person he could take his rage out on was the victim."
Prosecutors said Murray sucker-punched Jang and then punched him repeatedly, inflicting the fatal blow with a kick to the head while Jang was on the ground. He then threw the sandwich so hard into Jang's head that mayonnaise and lettuce stuck in his ear.
Some of the crime was caught on video.
Testifying on his own behalf, Murray said he wasn't trying to hurt Jang. He said he acted in self-defense after he slipped on the sandwich meat and fell to the ground. Jang, Murray testified, stood over him with a fist, so he protected himself by fighting back, Turk said.
Jurors did not believe the self-defense argument, but decided he did not commit murder. He took the beating too far, kicking a defenseless man in the head, Turk said.
"Somebody lost his life because he laughed and had a normal human reaction to something that was pretty funny," Turk said. "It could have been anybody standing there."
Deputy Public Defender Haaris Syed, who represented Murray, was not available for comment.
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