OAKLAND -- The case against two alleged gang members accused of killing a 3-year-old boy and wounding two men in an early afternoon drive-by shooting outside an East Oakland grocery store in 2011 is now in the hands of an Alameda County jury.
Lawrence Denard, 29, is the alleged shooter and Willie Torrence, 25, is the alleged driver in the Aug. 8, 2011, shooting on International Boulevard at 64th Avenue, described by the prosecution as a gang hit on rivals during which 3-year-old Carlos Nava was a casualty.
Defense attorneys on Wednesday and Thursday asked for acquittals for the defendants, who each had two witnesses as the driver and shooter. Deputy district attorney Ben Beltramo also showed a video that Denard took 50 minutes before the shooting in which he talks about his rivals while waving a Glock pistol authorities believe is the murder weapon. The car used in the shooting was Torrence's girlfriend's Dodge Neon that he drove to San Jose to deliver to her just after shooting.
Attorney David Byron called the evidence against his client Torrence as "circumstantial held together by assumption." Byron described Torrence as a family man who use a street gang persona to bolster an image as an rapper, but not a gang member embroiled in a longtime feud between gangs claiming different sections of an East Oakland housing project as alleged by the prosecution,
One witness named a different man as the driver during the shooting, and Torrence fled to Las Vegas afterward because he knew police were after him even though he is innocent, Byron said.
Defense attorney Annie Beles also denied any gang affiliation for Denard, and further argued that the surviving shooting victims, Jerome Williams and Robert Hudson, were not gang members, either.
The only thing that Denard is guilty of, Beles said, is being a felon in possession of a handgun for his self-made videos.
Denard was not present for the shooting and statements by the two witnesses who say that he was the gunman can't be trusted, Beles said. One of the witnesses was not where he said he was and used his allegation against Denard to get out of an assault weapon charge, while the shooting victim who named Denard only did so after pressure by authorities because he was hoping to get some victim compensation money, Beles said.
She alleged that investigators cut corners in a desperate rush to make arrests because of the community outrage over the death of a little boy out shopping with his mother and older brother.
"I don't know who killed that child, I don't know why the child was killed, but the evidence is it wasn't Lawrence Denard," Beles said.
In his closing statement Tuesday, Beltramo described the evidence against the defendants as overwhelming. They had the means, the motive, the opportunity and were seen in the act, Beltramo said in his argument for guilty verdicts on all counts.
Jury deliberations began late Thursday.
Contact Malaika Fraley at 925-234-1684. Follow her at Twitter.com/malaikafraley.