OAKLAND - The defense lawyer for the reputed gang member who's accused of firing the shot that killed 3-year-old Carlos Nava in East Oakland three years ago said today that he's guilty - but only of an illegal gun charge, not murder.
In her closing argument in the trial of Lawrence Denard, 29, and co-defendant Willie Torrence, 25, Annie Beles, who represents Denard, conceded that videos that Denard recorded on his cellphone show that he had two guns on Aug. 8, 2011, the day that Carlos was killed in the 6400 block of International Boulevard.
Denard has prior convictions for grand theft and possession of a firearm by a felon so he shouldn't have had any guns, Beles said.
But Beles said emphatically that Denard is not guilty of murder because she doesn't think the prosecution has proven that he was the person who fired the shots in the incident or even that he was present at the scene of the shooting.
She told jurors, "The right and just verdict is that Mr. Denard is not guilty because he was not at the scene and he did not shoot the gun."
Beles said her admission that Denard is guilty of the gun charge "is a small concession but it's the only concession that I'll make and the only concession that justice makes."
Prosecutor Ben Beltramo alleged in his closing argument on Tuesday that Denard and Torrence, the alleged driver in the incident, belong to the 69th Village gang in East Oakland and were targeting Robert Hudson and Jerome Williams, who he said are members of the nearby 65th Village gang.
Hudson and Williams were wounded in the shooting but survived their injuries and testified in the trial of Denard and Torrence.
One of the stray bullets fired in the shooting struck and killed Carlos, who Beltramo said was going to a neighborhood grocery with his mother and his older brother and was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Beltramo said Denard had the motive, means and opportunity to carrying out the shooting and "declared his intent" in two cellphone videos of himself that he recorded at a gang hangout in East Oakland less than an hour before the shooting, which occurred at about 1:10 p.m. on Aug. 8, 2011.
The prosecutor said the videos show Denard brandishing two guns, saying, "I'm a gangster, man," and asserting that rival gang members were "soft."
Hudson and another man told Oakland police that Denard was the shooter in the incident but Beles told jurors that their statements are unreliable because she believes they had "a motive to lie" about Denard since they were seeking and ultimately received favorable treatment from police and prosecutors.
Referring to what she said is a lack of evidence that Denard was the shooter, Beles said, "If it ain't him, he shouldn't be convicted. That's what justice mandates."
Beles also alleged that the Oakland Police Department rushed to arrest suspects in the shooting because it was "desperate to get someone" because of the community's outrage over Carlos' death.
In addition facing one count of murder and two counts of attempted murder, Denard and Torrence are accused of being ex-felons in possession of a firearm, discharging a gun from a vehicle and acting to benefit a criminal street gang.
Torrence has a conviction on an illegal gun charge as an adult and also was convicted of robbery when he was a juvenile.
Torrence's lawyer, David Byron, will give his closing argument Thursday morning, when arguments continue for a third day. Beltramo will present his rebuttal argument later in the day on Thursday and then jurors will begin their deliberations.
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