SAN BERNARDINO — A jury found two young men guilty Wednesday in the beating death of 63-year-old Nathan Macon during a fight at a San Bernardino convenience store.
Jurors found Milton Walker, and his brother, Jerome Walker, guilty of second-degree murder in the killing of Macon last year at Jimmy’s Food Store, near Base Line and Medical Center Drive.
The Walkers, in their early 20s at the time Macon was killed, are scheduled to be sentenced Dec. 2. A key piece of trial evidence – a security video recorded from inside the store – showed the Walkers punching a drunken Macon after he had yelled threats.
Family members of the victim cried and hugged eachother upon hearing the verdicts.
Prosecutors thanked the jurors for the hard work they put into listening to testimony and reviewing the evidence in the case.
“We were very pleased with the jury verdict,” Deputy District Attorney Cary Epstein said after the court proceedings. “We really appreciate all the hard work and dedication of our jurors.”
Generally, a conviction of second-degree murder carries a sentence of 15 years to life in state prison, according to the California Penal Code.
Defense lawyers for the Walkers said they respect the judicial system but were disappointed with the verdicts. Second-degree murder means the conduct was dangerous and showed a wanton disregard for human life, explained lawyer Celia Torres, who represented Milton Walker.
“That’s not the situation in this case,” said Torres. “It’s a situation where Mr. Macon charged at my client after my client had ignored all of Mr. Macon’s words and threats.”
San Bernardino police and witnesses say the 40- to 50-second altercation began about 6 p.m. March 11, 2010, when the Walkers tried to enter Jimmy’s as Macon was leaving.
Macon walked out of the store and Milton Walker entered, as Macon still held the door. Jerome Walker tried to walk inside, but the door hit his leg, according to testimony. A verbal confrontation ensued.
The defense, which broke down the video into fractions of a second for the jury, say Macon moved toward at Milton Walker in the doorway of the store after shouting physical threats. Milton Walker punched Macon in self-defense, they said.
The defense also says Macon punched the Walkers, but prosecutors say Macon was simply putting up his arms to deflect the blows.
“These men never intended to hurt Mr. Macon to the point where Mr. Macon would die,” said lawyer Majorie Barrios, who represented Jerome Walker.
At trial, prosecutors highlighted Macon’s drunkenness and the size and age of the defendants, as opposed to the victim. They also asked the Walkers why they continued to pursue Macon into the parking lot, if they were defending themselves.
The Walkers were “devastated” after the verdicts, the defense lawyers said.
“I think it was a terrible miscarriage of justice,” Barrios said of the trial’s outcome. “Justice was not done today.”
On the witness stand, the Walkers said Macon pushed the door into Jerome Walker’s leg. The video showed Jerome Walker and Macon arguing.
Macon’s blood alcohol content was 0.23 or 0.24, according to the defense.
“Do you know who I am? I’m a Macon,” Jerome Walker testified he was told. “Do you know who you’re (expletive) with?”
Milton Walker, who had walked into the store, returned to the doorway, when he heard Macon threatening his brother, he said.
“I heard him say he would cut him,” said Milton Walker.
The video showed Milton Walker standing at the doorway, with his arms down, listening to Macon’s threats. Jerome Walker sauntered away into the store, ignoring the older man.
Macon stood directly in the doorway, with his right hand holding open the door and his left had down, the video showed. Milton Walker said Macon challenged him, asking him what he was going to do, and threatened to cut him too.
When Macon appeared to take a step forward, Milton Walker clenched his fist and punched Macon. Jerome Walker turned and walked back to the doorway.
The fighting pushed Macon, and he staggered into the parking lot where he fell back onto the pavement. Jerome Walker punched Macon two more times while he was on the ground.
According to trial testimony, two women screamed – one inside the store and the other outside – for the Walkers to stop. The defendants testified they heard the women, but did not know what they said.
However, in a recorded interview with police, Milton Walker said: “I looked them dead in the eyes and told them I’m not going to kill him.”
The Walkers surrendered to police days after officers tried to contact them. The defendants testified they threw away the clothing they wore the night of the fight.
The Walkers told police they believed Macon was reaching for a weapon from his pocket. No weapon was found at the scene.
Macon was taken to Arrowhead Regional Medical Center in Colton, where he remained in a coma for 12 days before he died.
Prosecutors described the near fully-gray Macon at trial using words, such as drunk, staggering, unstable, elderly and fragile. The Walkers testified they didn’t see Macon as fragile, they saw him as a man.
The victim is one of the elders in a well-known Westside family. Some of his relatives have been suspected in a handful of homicides, but police say Macon was a true victim in this case.
The defense said the jury might have seen the case differently if they had seen evidence of the area’s rough culture and Macon’s own past. Judge Michael A. Smith had denied the use of that information as irrelevant, prior to the trial.
San Bernardino’s Westside has a full history of homicides and gang violence. Barrios explained that for the defendants, growing up on the city’s west side, Macon’s words were seen as threats.
“They did nothing to that man until he charged at them,” Torres said.
Reach Mike via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow him on Twitter @sbcourts