LOS ANGELES, Calif., - A state appeals court panel today upheld a man's conviction for the Easter Sunday 2009 murders of two men on Skid Row, including an innocent bystander who had worked on the movie 'The Soloist.'
The three-justice panel from California's 2nd District Court of Appeal rejected the defense's contention that the judge erred in Richard Luna's trial by not instructing jurors on voluntary and involuntary manslaughter.
Luna was convicted in the April 12, 2009, killing of Kevin Cohen, 49, who was struck by a stray bullet about a week before he was set to walk the red carpet at a movie premiere of 'The Soloist'' an event that was later dedicated to him.
Luna was also convicted of first-degree murder for the killing of Tommie Hayes at a hotel at Stanford Avenue and East Seventh Street in downtown Los Angeles.
'Here, defendant effectively concedes (as he must) that the evidence proved that he killed Hayes, his intended target, in a fusillade of bullets with premeditated intent to kill, and that one stray bullet killed Cohen, an unintended target. Thus, defendant's premeditated intent to kill Hayes `transferred to' Cohen, the unintended victim, making defendant guilty of premeditated first-degree murder in that killing,'' the appellate court panel found in its 13-page ruling.
A state appellate court panel is set to hear arguments next month in the case of co-defendant Lamont Ward, who was also convicted of the murders.
Authorities said shortly after Luna and Ward were arrested that Hayes described by police as a rival drug dealer to Ward -- appeared to have been the only target and that Cohen seemed to have been an unplanned victim.
Hayes was shot eight times and Cohen once, apparently by a stray bullet.
'Ward quarterbacked the whole thing,'' Deputy District Attorney Dan Akemon said after the two were convicted. 'He hired Luna.'
Luna was paid $700 for the hit, according to the prosecutor.
Both men were sentenced last year to life in prison without the possibility of parole.