By Francis Taylor, Executive Editor
In April 2014, Inglewood resident Brandon Spencer, 19, was sentenced 40 years to life in prison for a 2012 shooting that wounded four people on the campus of the University of Southern California at a Halloween party. Immediately after this tragic shooting and following his ultimate arrest and conviction, Spencer denied his involvement in the shooting and vowed to prove his innocence and secure his release from prison.
Long before Spencer’s conviction I knew his family and had met the young man on several occasions in his home, when he was in elementary school. Later, as an aspiring college student, Spencer told me about his plans to enter college in Arizona, while he was working as a security guard in Los Angeles. I was among a legion of others who were prepared to vouch for his character.
However, with an overzealous prosecutor, and the coerced testimony of a defendant in an unrelated case that pointed the finger at Spencer, and without any hard evidence, he was found guilty in only three hours, late on a Friday afternoon.
But with new sentencing laws and the reversal of testimony from the coerced witness against spencer, his Petition for Resentencing is pending, a new court date may be assigned, and he is hopeful that the result will be the dismissal of all charges.
As of January 1, 2019, SB 1437 ended the practice of sentencing a person for first-degree murder if they did not commit homicide or even have knowledge that the homicide occurred. According to the language of this new law, a person can only be guilty of “felony murder” if: the person is the actual killer, the person acted with the intent to kill, such as assisting the actual person who committed the murder or encouraging the actual person who committed the murder, the person was a major participant in the crime and acted with “reckless indifference to human life.”
There are a few possibilities of relief that can be granted by the court under SB 1437. This includes vacating the conviction or resentencing. Spencer is praying that his conviction is vacated, and he will be released from prison. SB 775 is also related to this matter.
The recanted testimony from the witness against Spencer is extraordinary. In the declaration, that will be presented in Spencer’s pending court appearance, and has been delivered to INGLEWOOD TODAY, the statements include:
“Because of me, Brandon Sencer received a sentence that was 40 years to life for a crime he didn’t do. Because of me, the district attorney convicted a man who did not do what they say he did. For my part in that conviction, I am sorry, but I must now set the record straight.”
“I did not see Mr. Spencer leave the party and come back later with a gun. I did not see Mr. Sencer shoot a gun into the crowd or at Mr. Hall. I only said that I saw Mr. Spencer come back with the gun because the DA prosecuting the case told me that she needed me to say those things or else she could not make her case for premeditation. “
“I did what the DA said because I was threatened by the detectives investigating the case, and by the DA prosecuting the case that if I did not say what they needed me to say that the DA would intervene in my own pending criminal case and cause me to be harmed or sentenced more severely”.
In addition, the witness indicates that the Detective involved in the matter showed him three, six pack lineup pictures where Spencer’s picture was twice the size of the others. He states when he was brought to court, he was told that he would be held in contempt if he did not testify as a witness, even though what the prosecution wanted him to say was not true, and he would receive a violation of his probation. Finally, he also stated that he lied to Spencer’s attorney when asked on the stand if he had received any special deals from the prosecution in exchange for his testimony.
The witness had been charged with stealing $26,000 in merchandise from his employer and would have otherwise been sentenced for that crime. He ended his declaration by stating, “I feel horrible for what I did and it was wrong. But now is the time for the truth to come out. I only ask for Mr. Spencer’s forgiveness and for the opportunity for the complete story to be told, so that Mr. Spencer can receive the justice that we all deserve.