LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — A 23-year-old man was sentenced to life in prison for his role in the killing of a 23-day-old baby by stray gunfire in MacArthur Park in 2007.
Juvenal Cardenas Meijia, 40, was described as a “collector” for local gangs.
The DA said gang member Giovanni Macedo fired a gun at a street vendor who refused to pay when Luis Angel Garcia, who was in a stroller, was struck by an errant bullet.
Meijia was convicted August 30 of first-degree murder and other charges for the September 15, 2007 murder.
While Macedo fired the gun, Deputy District Attorney Victor Avila said it was Meijia who pointed the vendor out to Macedo.
“The facts of this case are tragic and senseless,” Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Sam Ohta said during the sentencing hearing.
In addition to first-degree murder, Mejia was convicted of one count each of attempted murder, attempted extortion, conspiracy to commit extortion and conspiracy to commit murder, along with two counts of assault by a semiautomatic firearm.
“Without the defendant, this [murder] doesn’t happen,” Avila said.
“As he walked down the street, he knew it was crowded … Nobody gets warned. Instead, he points out the vendor for the shooter,” Avila added.
Mejia — who was arrested in Mexico in September 2011 and returned to Los Angeles County in February 2012 — was the last of seven men tried in connection with the baby’s killing. The other six, including Macedo, were convicted of various charges and sentenced to prison.
Avila told jurors that Mejia, who he described as a gang associate, knew “what the weapon of choice was,” what the plan was and why the attack was being carried out on the vendor.
The vendor was also shot but survived.
Mejia’s attorney, Antonio Bestard, told jurors that his client was not a gang member, but only working as an “employee” for the gang in an effort to “collect taxes” from street vendors who sold their wares near MacArthur Park.
The defense lawyer maintained that there was no evidence Mejia knew about a plan to kill the vendor. He urged jurors to acquit Mejia of first-degree murder and the special circumstance allegation that the murder was carried out to further the activities of a street gang.
He said there was no evidence of any propensity of violence by Mejia against the street vendors, arguing that the vendor’s “disrespect” against one of the gang members resulted in the shooting.