LOS ANGELES – A teenage girl was convicted of murder and
attempted murder today in the fatal shooting a year and a half ago
of actor Merlin Santana, the District Attorney’s office announced
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Larry P. Fidler, who conducted
the court trial of 17-year-old Monique King, returned the verdicts
after an in-depth recitation of his reasoning in reaching the
decisions that he did in the case.
King’s trial started out before a jury more than two weeks ago,
but early in the trial, a decision was made to have the judge hear
the evidence and the jury was excused. As part of that decision,
Fidler said, it was agreed that the defendant be sentenced as a
juvenile. She was 15 at the time of the murder and originally
charged as a juvenile. The juvenile court determined she was unfit
to be tried there and the case was transferred to adult court.
Fidler convicted King of one count of second-degree murder and
one count of attempted murder. He also found true the allegation
that a principal was armed during commission of the crime. He
acquitted the defendant of two counts added after the trial began –
accessory after the fact and conspiracy to shoot into an occupied
King’s sentencing was scheduled for April 20. Deputy District
Attorney Greg Dohi, who successfully prosecuted all three
defendants, said King could be sentenced to the California Youth
Authority, where she could be held until she is 25.
Santana, co-star of television’s "Steve Harvey Show," 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.
Fidler noted that evidence at King’s trial showed the young woman
went to co-defendants Damien Andre Gates, 21, and Brandon Douglas
Bynes, 25, and lied to them, saying Santana attempted to rape her.
Testimony indicated that the defendant’s story "threw Mr. Gates into
a fury for whatever reason," the judge said. Gates armed himself
with a handgun and rifle, and with Bynes and King, went to find
Santana and the victim’s friend.
The judge determined that King aided and abetted the crimes,
noting that she knew there was going to be a shooting and she got
behind the wheel and drove the other defendants to safety after
Santana was killed.
"…Even a 15-year-old knows that if you take a gun and shoot at
somebody…somebody is going to get hit, somebody is going to die,"
Gates was convicted of first-degree murder and attempted murder
by a jury. Fidler sentenced him last month to three consecutive life
sentences, plus 70 years. Bynes pleaded guilty to voluntary
manslaughter and assault with a deadly weapon. He testified against
his co-defendants and March 11, was sentenced by Superior Court
Judge Kathleen Kennedy-Powell to an agreed-upon 23-year term.
Santana, who lived in North Hollywood, was 26 when he was killed.
His friend survived the attack.
All three defendants were arrested within about two weeks of the
murder and have remained in custody since that time.