Opening statements get underway in third Mynisha Crenshaw trial


Lawyers delivered their opening remarks as testimony got underway Monday for two suspected gang members in the third criminal trial stemming from the 2005 deadly shooting of 11-year-old Mynisha Crenshaw.

The two men on trial, Michael Barnett Jr. and Sinque Morrison, were part of a large group of gang members who sought out rival gang members when shots were fired into a San Bernardino apartment where Mynisha was eating dinner with her family, Deputy District Attorney Ron Webster explained to the jury in Victorville Superior Court.

Mynisha was struck once in the chest, while her then 14-year-old sister was shot in the right arm – severing the bone in two. The girls were unintended victims.

“They had no ties to any gangs,” Webster told the jury. “They had no weapons.”

The armed group was directed to the apartment at Mountain Avenue and Citrus Street, in San Bernardino, on Nov. 13, 2005 by another member of the street gang, who has since taken a plea bargain, according to prosecutors.

Mynisha’s mother, Roshatta Joseph, told jurors the sun had gone down and some of her children had come inside when they talked about a line of slow moving cars outside. Within minutes, Joseph heard shooting outside and saw Mynisha stumble and fall to the floor.

“It was just a constant pow, pow, pow, pow, pow,” Joseph said. Jurors’ gazes were fixed on crime scene photographs flashed onto a large screen, as Mynisha’s mother recounted the horrific night.

Joseph grabbed a tissue and dabbed at her eyes when a photograph of Mynisha shown on the screen. The little girl stumbled and fell back on the floor as the shots rang out.

“Daddy, help me,” Joseph recalled Mynisha saying before she died. “It’s all she could say.”

Morrison, 32, and Barnett, 22, are the last two, of 12 total defendants charged in the case, who are awaiting resolutions. This will be the second trial for Barnett and the third for Morrison.

Defense lawyer Ron Powell, who represents Morrison, told jurors that while the shooting was senseless and tragic, “Mr. Morrison is not guilty of these crimes.”

Powell told jurors the evidence against his client consists “almost solely” of testimony by accomplices with a bias.

Barnett’s lawyer, Marsha Fitzgerald, said her client had minimal participation in the shooting and was only there to be a lookout because he was following orders.

“You’re not going to hear a lot about him,” Fitzgerald told jurors in her opening remarks. “You’re not going to see a lot of photos.”

The defendants face up to life in state prison if they are convicted on charges of murder, attempted murder, conspiracy to commit murder and shooting at an inhabited dwelling, according to court records.

Barnett and Morrison were among a group of four defendants who received a mistrial in fall 2006, when a jury deadlocked on most of the charges against them in West Valley Superior Court, in Rancho Cucamonga.

Morrison also started a trial with two other co-defendants earlier this year. But Morrison received a second mistrial when a law enforcement witness inadvertantly testified about Morrison’s parole status before the jury, in violation of a judicial order.

In addition to Barnett and Morrison, two defendants have been sentenced to state prison after receiving jury convictions and eight others have taken plea bargains in the case.

The third trial was moved before Judge John Tomberlin in Victorville Superior Court, from San Bernardino Superior Court, because of courtroom availability, prosecutors said.

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