Jury Gets Case Against Man Charged in Off-Duty Police Captain’s Slaying
CNS– A prosecutor urged jurors today to convict a man of first-degree murder for the shooting death of an off-duty Los Angeles County police captain, saying he “assassinated” the law enforcement veteran during an attempted robbery.
In his closing argument on Monday, defense attorney Victor Salerno conceded that his 26-year-old client, Miguel Magallon, killed Capt. Michael Sparkes nearly five years ago, but told jurors “the evidence does not establish that this is a first-degree murder.”
“This is a second-degree murder and nothing more,” Magallon’s attorney told the panel.
The eight-woman, four-man jury got the case this morning after hearing about two days of closing arguments from attorneys for both sides.
Magallon is charged with murder and attempted robbery in connection with the attack on Sparkes, who was riding his bicycle when he was shot with a military-style assault rifle shortly after 5:30 a.m. on Aug. 10, 2004, at Redondo Beach and Avalon boulevards in the Rosewood area near Compton.
The murder charge includes the special circumstance allegations of murder of a peace officer, murder during an attempted robbery and murder during a drive-by shooting, which make Magallon eligible for a death sentence.
In the prosecution’s final argument, Deputy District Attorney Darren Levine said “Captain Sparkes died a hero.”
“Captain Sparkes was killed trying to stop a crime against him,” the prosecutor said, noting that he “took cover just like he was trained to do.”
Holding up the assault rifle, Levine told jurors, “This is his (Magallon’s) weapon of choice. You think he was shooting to scare him? Miguel Magallon assassinated Captain Michael Sparkes … That’s what happened here.”
The prosecutor called it a “classic case” of first-degree murder.
“What is more cold-hearted than shooting somebody who’s already down?” Levine asked, noting that the off-duty police captain was on his cellphone with a 911 operator after being wounded when a second flurry of gunfire was heard.
The police captain was shot nine times but managed to fire 16 rounds from a 9 mm Beretta handgun he carried with his badge in his “fanny pack” while riding his bicycle as part of an exercise program before work, the prosecutor said.
Magallon was hit by one of the shots, according to Levine.
In his closing argument, Magallon’s attorney told jurors that co- defendant Orvis Anthony — who provided Magallon with the weapon and was driving the car — planned the robbery in an effort to get some money and later cut a deal with the District Attorney’s Office so he wouldn’t have to be in the “hot seat” with Magallon.
“When you have a drunken person being escorted by a gang member with a car who quickly, out of the blue 12 hours into an alcohol, drug party spree, suggests a robbery and arms the person and within minutes the robbery lark turns into a deadly shootout with an unknown, but armed stranger which the person ends up shooting and killing, you have a classic case of second-degree murder,” Salerno told jurors.
The defense attorney said there was “ample evidence of intoxication,” and argued his client was also “under the influence of Orvis Anthony.”
“This is not an assassination,” said Salerno, who has disputed the prosecution’s contention that Sparkes had pulled his badge from his fanny pack to let Magallon know he was a law enforcement officer.
Magallon’s co-defendant and then-next-door-neighbor, Anthony, now 24, testified against him at a preliminary hearing, but is now “legally unavailable” to testify, the prosecutor told jurors last month. A transcript of his testimony from the preliminary hearing was read to jurors.