By Neal Putnam
A second jury deadlocked Jan. 27 for a man accused of killing a 71-year-old gay man and the judge dismissed the case, setting him free.
Edward Jamar Brooks, 39, was released from jail Jan. 27, after the six-man, six-woman jury deadlocked 9-3 in favor of acquittal following 16 hours of deliberations over four days.
This was a retrial for Brooks, whose first jury deadlocked 9-3 for conviction on Oct. 31, 2019, in the 2000 death of LeRay “Mac” Parkins, 71.
Deputy District Attorney Christina Arrollado told San Diego Superior Court Judge David Gill she was not ready to dismiss the case against Brooks, and that a third trial was possible.
“I don’t see any justification for trying it a third time,” responded Gill. “I don’t know if you will ever get 12 people to agree.”
“I will exercise my own discretion and dismiss the charges,” said Gill, ordering Brooks’ release.
Brooks was not present because he had the flu so severely he could not attend the hearing in which jurors explained they were hopelessly deadlocked.
“I think it was the fairest of trials,” said attorney Robert Ford, who represented Brooks.
Brooks, who was 20 years old when Parkins was bludgeoned to death with a baseball bat on Aug. 23, 2000, testified that a Spring Valley man he was with that day killed Parkins.
Brooks testified he was selling crack cocaine when Lester Bell, now 39, and Terrence Brown, now 38, picked him up and drove him to North Park.
Parkins lived in North Park with his partner of 20 years and was out on his morning walk in an alley off Pershing Avenue. He was a tenor in the choir of Metropolitan Community Church, which then was located on 30th Street in North Park.
MCC Senior Pastor Dan Koeshall said he was disappointed the jury couldn’t reach a verdict.
In 2018, police tested the empty pockets of Parkins’ pants, and Brooks’ DNA was a match. He admitted to stealing the wallet from Parkins in his own testimony to jurors.
A robbery charge was not filed against Brooks because the statute of limitations barred it. There is no statute of limitations for murder.
Afterward, frustrated jurors spoke to both attorneys about why they couldn’t reach a verdict. Several pointed out that Brooks’ DNA on a pocket of Parkins’ pants didn’t prove he killed him.
“The pocket led us to the event, but there was no solid proof [of murder by Brooks],” said one juror.
“It only put him there,” said another juror.
“We kept going back and forth,” said another.
Jurors said they did not hear testimony from Bell or Brown in the retrial as the prosecutor decided not to present them as witnesses. The first jury heard Bell and Brown who said Brooks killed Parkins, but they said they wanted more confirmation.
“We didn’t have their perspective on what happened that day,” said a juror.
Jurors said their first vote was 9-3 for conviction, so they asked to re-hear Brooks’ testimony that was read back by a court reporter.
“There definitely were inconsistencies in the 2018 [police] interview and what he said on the stand,” said another juror.
Some jurors said Brooks own testimony didn’t help. One juror said “he made it worse.” But others said he helped.
“He was telling us what he wanted us to hear,” said a juror. “He could have been coached.”
Ford told jurors the robbery was Brooks’ first and last hold-up he had ever done, but in the police interview, Brooks was asked about why Parkins’ pockets were left inside out.
“That’s protocol: when you rough up someone, you go through their pockets,” said Brooks in the interview that jurors watched.
Before attorneys left the courtroom, Gill commented, “It was well tried. You gave it your best shot, Ms. Arrollado.”
As she was walking down the hallway afterwards, Arrollado said “I’m very disappointed” in the outcome.
Bell pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and Brown pleaded guilty to robbery. A murder charge was dismissed and both will be sentenced on Feb. 21, possibly to prison.
Bell and Brown were linked to the theft of a credit card taken from Parkins’ wallet as Bell called his ex-girlfriend where she worked at a clothing store. She let the credit card go through her line and it was signed by Brown.
Bell’s ex-girlfriend testified at both trials. Both Bell and Brown remain in jail.
Ford said Brooks will return to North Carolina where he was arrested in May 2018.
“We heard from his boss. A job is waiting for him,” said Ford.