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Jury Convicts Man of First-Degree
Murder of Actor Merlin Santana

February 5, 2004
Contacts: Joe Scott, Director of Communications
Sandi Gibbons, Public Information Officer
Jane Robison, News Secretary
(213) 974-3525

LOS ANGELES – A Los Angeles man was convicted by a jury today of the first-degree murder of actor Merlin Santana, fatally shot more than a year ago after visiting a home in the Crenshaw District of the city, the District Attorney’s office announced.

The jury deliberated about a day before convicting Damien Andre Gates, 21, of one count of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder.  The jury found the attempt murder was willful, deliberate and premeditated.  It also found true allegations that Gates used a rifle to commit the crimes.

It was the second conviction in the case in less than a month.  On Jan. 26, co-defendant Brandon Douglas Bynes, 25, pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and assault with a deadly weapon.  Jury selection for a third defendant in the case, a 16-year-old girl, is scheduled to start on Monday, but it is believed her trial will not get under way until later this month.

Gates, who testified in his own defense, is scheduled to be sentenced by Superior Court Judge Larry P. Fidler on Feb. 25.  He faces a possible maximum sentence of 50 years to life in prison, plus life, plus 10 years, said Deputy District Attorney Greg Dohi, the prosecutor.  Bynes already has been sentenced to a 23-year state prison term.

Santana, 26, of North Hollywood, was shot in the head and killed as he and a friend were in a car leaving another man’s home in the Crenshaw District of Los Angeles on Nov. 9, 2002.  The friend survived the attack.  Santana was a co-star of television’s “Steve Harvey Show.”

The third defendant is Monique King, who also is charged with one count each of murder and attempted murder.  A judge court last year found her unfit to be tried as a juvenile.

All three defendants have been in custody since their arrests shortly after the shooting.


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