A gang member who pleaded no contest to voluntary manslaughter for his role in the 2010 Christmas night killing of a woman in front of her 3-year-old daughter in South Los Angeles was sentenced last Thursday to 29 years in state prison. Ezekiel Simon — who was 16 at the time of the killing of Kashmier James but was charged as an adult — also pleaded no contest to the attempted murder of a man who was not struck by the gunfire. The defendant also admitted gang and gun allegations.
In sentencing Simon, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Kathleen Kennedy said, “Black lives do matter and they should matter to you.” Simon is black, as was the victim.
Co-defendants Darnell Deshon Houston, 38, Lamar McKnight, 28, and Derrick Williams, 20, were convicted earlier this month of first-degree murder and attempted murder. Jurors also found true the special circumstance allegation that James was killed while the three were active participants in a criminal street gang and that the murder was carried out to further the gang’s activities, along with gang and gun allegations. Houston — who the prosecution alleged was the gunman — and McKnight — the getaway driver — are each facing no-parole life terms when they are sentenced Sept. 16.
Williams, who was 15 at the time and a backseat passenger in the car with Simon, is facing up to 50 years to life in prison. James was shot at 10:20 p.m. Dec. 25, 2010, in the 1700 block of West 85th Street as she stood outside a car talking with a friend who lived in the area. Her daughter, who was sitting in the car, was not injured.
Authorities said that the group was out looking for rivals and that James’ friend was mistaken for a gang member before the shots rang out. Neither James nor the intended victim were associated with a gang, authorities said. The woman’s mother, who is now raising her granddaughter, said words could not really explain the hurt that her daughter’s killing has caused.
“… You participated in this and nothing can ever change the damage you did,” the victim’s mother, Kimmolita Evans, told the defendant shortly before he was sentenced. “You and your crew left her in the street to bleed to death in front of her daughter, all because you guys wanted to make a name for your hood. You participated and it makes you just as guilty as the others. You can say, `But I did not shoot. You might as well (have) been the shooter because you got in the car knowing very well that you were on that night to take (someone’s) life — all because you wanted to be in a gang, a senseless gang…”
Evans said the 29-year prison term was “not enough for me” and said she prayed that Simon will “never ever see the light of day from the streets again.”