By Luke Thomas
October 4, 2013
An alleged gang member accused of executing a rival gang member in Japantown in January has been found not guilty of all charges following a three week jury trial.
The ten women, five men jury deliberated for five days over largely circumstantial evidence presented by Assistant District Attorney John Ullom, reaching its verdict yesterday and acquitting Carnell Taylor Jr. of first degree murder, of discharging a firearm into an occupied motor vehicle, illegal possession of a firearm and multiple gang enhancement charges.
Taylor, 24, who was known to police as a member of the Eddy Rock street gang, the largest of nine gangs located in the Western Addition area of San Francisco around public housing projects, faced life in prison if convicted of the slaying.
Taylor was accused of fatally shooting Jamal Gaines, 26, on January 19 at 5:30 pm near the intersection of Post and Fillmore streets while Gaines sat in his parked Mercedes car awaiting the return of his brother and a friend who were paying a cell phone bill at an AT&T store. Gaines, who was a student at City College of San Francisco studying to be a radiologist, was known to police as being a member of Chopper City, a rival Western Addition street gang.
The gunman fired eight bullets into the Mercedes resulting in six gunshot wounds, according to court testimony. Gaines attempted to escape the assassin but succumbed to his wounds a short distance away where he crashed his car into a parked car.
Though eight spent bullet casings were retrieved at the scene, the killer’s gun was never found.
Police identified Taylor as a suspect in the slaying following the retrieval of two surveillance videos. The first surveillance video identified Taylor at Eddy and Laguna streets (six blocks from the crime scene) several hours before the shooting wearing a one-piece denim breasted buttoned jacket with light grey sleeves and hoodie, and jeans pants. A second surveillance video obtained by police from a pharmacy on Fillmore Street captured a similarly dressed person walking briskly towards the scene of the crime just moments before Gaines was gunned down.
Taylor was arrested on January 30 at his girlfriend’s apartment in North Beach where police, bearing a search warrant, found a similar hooded two-toned jacket identified in the Eddy and Laguna surveillance video. Taylor admitted to police the jacket was his but in police interviews denied he was the man identified by police in the Eddy and Laguna surveillance video.
Despite several witnesses to the shooting, eye-witness accounts varied on their descriptions of the gunman’s clothing and none of the witnesses were able to identify Taylor as the killer. The prosecution’s case was further undermined when the SFPD lead investigator conceded under cross-examination by Public Defender Chief Attorney Matt Gonzalez that police had no hard evidence linking Taylor to the crime scene.
Cell phone evidence, which placed Taylor in the vicinity of the crime scene, was rendered inconclusive in placing Taylor directly at the crime scene.
“This was a tragic murder, but Mr. Taylor did not commit the crime,” Gonzalez said in a statement released by the Office of Public Defender. “I am gratified by the jurors’ diligence. They waded through all the evidence and ultimately determined that Mr. Taylor was not guilty.”
Mr. Ullom could not be reached for comment.