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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 murder conviction.

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 driver.

Thorn was found not guilty of all charges except felony evading police.

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 trial.

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 said today.

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, Zilversmit said.

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 White's death.

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 remain.

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.

Copyright © 2006 by Bay City News, Inc. -- Republication, Rebroadcast or any other Reuse without the express written consent of Bay City News, Inc. is prohibited.




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