California Supreme Court upheld the death sentences for three members of the “Bryant Family” drug gang in Los Angeles in a quadruple murder, including the shooting of a woman and her 2-year-old daughter to eliminate potential witnesses.
The court’s unanimous decision Monday affirms the conviction and sentence of Stanley Bryant, Donald F. Smith and Leroy Wheeler in the murder of two men, including the gang’s former “hit man,” who ran afoul of the gang and were shot at the entrance to a drug house.
In addition, Loretha Anderson and her daughter, 2-year-old Chemise were shot and killed in a parked car at the curb. The men attempted to kill Anderson’s 18-month-old son Carlos, but he survived.
The prosecutors argued that Armstrong and Brown were killed because they were considered threats to the Bryant’s business.
Justice Carol Corrigan wrote that any errors in the guilt and penalty phase of the trial were harmless and did not merit reversal individually or even when considered cumulatively.
Jurors were unable to reach a verdict for a fourth defendant Jon Settle. He later pleaded guilty to four counts of voluntary manslaughter and one charge of attempted murder.
The high court rejected claims of illegal searches, of defenses by one defendant that conflicted with another or implicated another. The court rejected Wheeler’s “guilt by association” claim.
The defendants also objected to a joint trial that included a self-represented defendant – Settle.
The trial lasted nearly three months, included 121 witnesses and 270 exhibits and hundreds of pages of documents as well as audio and video tapes, according to the court.
Bryant and his older brother Jeff controlled large-scale cocaine operation in the 1980s in the suburbs of Los Angeles. The employed over 100 people at the time and allegedly took in over $1 million during just three months in 1988.
The used fortified and guarded houses to sell drugs. Jeff pleaded guilty to conspiracy to cocaine sales and operating a “rock house” following a 1986 investigation, the court said.
Although in prison, Jeff was still considered the family leader and operations at the house resumed, with Andre Armstrong hired to act as a “hit man,” according to the court.
The Bryants hired Armstrong to kill a man for a $50 debt and another who vandalized another brother’s van. He was convicted of murder but it was later reversed on appeal and he later pled guilty to voluntary manslaughter. Armstrong was paroled in 1988.
While in prison he and his family received thousands of dollars from Bryant and other gang employees. Armstrong and Brown set up a cocaine operation in Monterey, after release from prison. He remained unhappy about the level of support he received from the Bryants and later decided to return to Los Angeles to “squeeze” the family for money and part of their drug business, according to the court.
This led to the shootings outside the Bryant drug house.
Case: People v. Bryant, No. S049596