Two men were sentenced Friday to life in prison without the possibility of parole for their special circumstances murder convictions for the fatal shooting and robbery of 66-year-old anti-crime activist Judy Salamon in Oakland four years ago.
Prosecutor Butch Ford told jurors that 25-year-old Stephon Lee and 24-year-old Mario Floyd didn't like it when Salamon filmed them while they were committing a crime in their neighborhood so they killed her.
Salamon was fatally shot in the 2400 block of Fern Street in Oakland's Maxwell Park district at 1:24 p.m. on July 24, 2013.
Alameda County Superior Court Judge Kevin Murphy said, "No one can dispute or deny the barbarity of what occurred" and "to say this was beyond the pale is a gross understatement."
Murphy said, "What happened to Ms. Salamon was absolutely horrific and beyond the understanding of any civilized person."
Ford said during the trial that Salamon, who was born in Hungary to a Jewish family of Holocaust survivors and had advocated hiring a private security force to patrol the Maxwell Park area because she thought Oakland police weren't doing a good enough job, had used her cellphone to take a video of Lee and Floyd committing a crime in her neighborhood and then followed the two men in her car.
The prosecutor said at one point Lee got out of the suspects' car, grabbed rocks from a nearby cemetery and threw them at Salamon, and Floyd also argued with Salamon and threw a garbage can at her.
Ford said Floyd later followed Salamon in his car, pulled up alongside her car to give Lee the opportunity to shoot her from his car's passenger seat and Lee then shot and killed her.
Salamon, who lived about a half-mile away in the 2700 block of Best Avenue and worked as a dog walker, crashed her car into a parked car after she was shot, he said.
But defense attorneys for Lee and Floyd told jurors that the two men should be found not guilty because the evidence against them was weak and the prosecution's witnesses weren't credible.
Lee and Floyd, who both were on probation for previous crimes when Salamon was killed, were convicted in September of first-degree murder and the special circumstance of committing a murder during the course of a robbery.
Lee was also convicted of being a felon in possession of a gun because he has two prior felony convictions, one for second-degree robbery in 2011 and one for possession of a firearm on Sept. 25, 2012.
Prosecutors said Floyd was convicted of carrying a loaded firearm in a city on July 16, 2013, only eight days before Salamon was killed.
Floyd's lawyer, Annie Beles, argued today that Floyd should be granted a new trial based on her belief that Murphy's jury instructions were incorrect, Ford engaged in prosecutorial misconduct, the prosecution improperly coerced two witnesses to testify and one of the jurors was racially biased against Lee and Floyd, who are black.
But Murphy denied Beles' motion for a new trial, saying there's insufficient evidence to support her allegations.
Murphy said that although a female juror came forward after Lee and Floyd were convicted to allege that a male juror in the case was racially biased the female juror couldn't cite any specific statements by the male juror that clearly proved that he was biased.
Murphy said the male juror who was accused of being biased actually appeared to be the juror who was the most reluctant to convict Lee and Floyd because he asked for more time to review the evidence in the case when the other jurors indicated they were ready to find the two men guilty.