Re-trial granted for Napoleon Brown murder conviction
By Adam Martin, Bay City News Service
March 11, 2006
SAN FRANCISCO (BCN) - Convicted robber Napoleon Brown
appeared in San Francisco Superior Court today as lawyers in his
case discussed a re-trial motion recently granted to him on his
Brown was found guilty in May of three counts of robbery, one
count of carjacking and one count of murder for a June 2000 incident
in which he and an accomplice robbed Johnny Rocket's restaurant
on Chestnut Street.
After the robbery Brown, then 28, and Sala Thorn, then 24, allegedly
carjacked 25-year-old Lenties White, pushing her out of the car
on the Golden Gate Bridge, where she was fatally struck by a drunken
Thorn was found not guilty of all charges except felony evading
After his conviction, Brown's lead attorney, Jeffrey Schwartz,
went to work for the Humboldt County district attorney's office
and a new lawyer, Marc Zilversmit, joined Brown's defense team
along with David Wise, who had helped argue Brown's case in the
On Feb. 27, Judge Jerome Benson granted their motion to re-try
the murder case on the grounds of ineffective assistance of counsel.
"Since David was one of the trial lawyers it would have
put him in a difficult position to argue that he or his fellow
trial lawyer had been ineffective in the previous trial,'' Zilversmit
Zilversmit and Wise filed a re-trial motion for all counts in
November, Zilversmit said. That motion was denied in January but
Benson later said he had some problems with the murder charge,
Wise, Zilversmit and prosecutor Robert Gordon filed points on
the murder charge, Zilversmit said, and on Feb. 22 Wise and Zilversmit
argued in court that Schwartz had not used every option in his
arguments in Brown's defense.
They said Schwartz had failed to fully argue that the chain of
causation had been broken in Brown's connection to White's death.
Since White had been hit by a drunken driver, they argued, and
since she had survived for a time while in the care of emergency
personnel after being hit, Brown was not directly the cause of
Gordon argued that a representative from the California Highway
Patrol had given testimony stating that even if the driver who
hit White had been sober, the accident would have been unavoidable.
On Feb. 27, Benson granted Wise and Zilversmit's motion to re
try the murder charge. The robbery and carjacking convictions
Today Gordon said he had not decided whether to pursue the murder
charge or drop it and let Brown be sentenced for his other crimes.
"The matter is still under consideration,'' he said.
Wise said today that even if the murder charge were dropped,
Brown faces 20 to 40 years in prison for robbery and carjacking.
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