DEATH PENALTY IN KILLINGS

Af­ter slay­ing Ch­eryl Green, 14, Jonathan Fajardo also mur­dered a po­ten­tial wit­ness.

Los Angeles Times - - Latextra - Vic­to­ria Kim vic­to­ria.kim@latimes.com

Char­lene Lovett, the mother of Ch­eryl Green, faces the cam­era as she hugs ju­ror Mon­ica Lucey af­ter the jury or­dered the death penalty for Jonathan Fajardo, who killed her daugh­ter and a po­ten­tial wit­ness. “Jus­tice was served for my baby,” Lovett said. “I feel her with me, here, right now.”

A Los An­ge­les jury or­dered the death penalty Mon­day for a 22-year-old Latino gang mem­ber con­victed in the hate-crime killing of a 14-year-old black girl and the stab­bing death of a po­ten­tial wit­ness in the Har­bor Gate­way area.

Jonathan Fajardo, who was 18 at the time of the killings, non­cha­lantly looked around the court­room as the ver­dict was read. The jury found that he should re­ceive death for his first-de­gree murder con­vic­tions for the slay­ings of Ch­eryl Green and Christo­pher Ash.

Fajardo was el­i­gi­ble for the death penalty be­cause the jury ac­cepted spe­cial cir­cum­stance al­le­ga­tions in­clud­ing mul­ti­ple murder, killing a wit­ness, com­mit­ting a hate crime based on race and com­mit­ting the crime for a gang. Fajardo was a mem­ber of the 204th Street gang, which pros­e­cu­tors said in­tim­i­dated and at­tacked African Amer­i­cans in Har­bor Gate­way.

Ac­cord­ing to court tes­ti­mony, Fajardo walked up and opened fire on a group of young black peo­ple hang­ing out in a drive­way on Dec. 15, 2006. Ch­eryl Green was killed and three oth­ers were in­jured. Ash was found on a road­side two weeks later, stabbed more than 60 times. Pros­e­cu­tors said a group of gang mem­bers lured him to a garage and killed him be­cause they sus­pected he was co­op­er­at­ing with au­thor­i­ties about Ch­eryl’s death.

Ch­eryl’s mother, Char­lene Lovett, clasped her hands to­gether tightly as the ver­dict was read, then wiped tears from her cheeks.

“Jus­tice was served for my baby,” she said after­ward. “I feel her with me, here, right now.”

Thomas White, Fajardo’s de­fense at­tor­ney, said he would file mo­tions for a new trial and for a re­duced sen­tence, given his client’s age and be­cause he was, the lawyer said, dom­i­nated by older gang mem­bers.

Dur­ing the penalty phase of the trial, Ge­of­frey Pope, an­other at­tor­ney rep­re­sent­ing Fajardo, urged ju­rors to give him a life sen­tence so he could “per­haps, per­haps atone for what he has done.” Pope said Fajardo had long ex­pe­ri­enced de­pres­sion and had an un­di­ag­nosed learn­ing dis­abil­ity, which led to his be­ing “la­beled in­cor­rectly” as lazy.

Be­tween a mother who worked two jobs and a fa­ther who was in cus­tody, he grew up in ne­glect, Pope said, adding that Fajardo’s er­ratic, para­noid be­hav­ior was the re­sult of post-trau­matic stress dis­or­der-like symp­toms from when he was shot in a drive-by.

“He didn’t choose the neigh­bor­hood where the 204th Street gang is en­trenched,” Pope told ju­rors.

But Dist. Atty. Gretchen Ford painted a far more chill­ing pic­ture of the young man, say­ing he killed peo­ple “for sport and for fun.”

“What you see is a mon­ster,” she said, not­ing that while in cus­tody, Fajardo as­saulted a deputy and was found car­ry­ing sharp in­stru­ments and a hand­cuff key.

Fam­ily mem­bers of the young vic­tims took the stand and told ju­rors of their loss.

Ch­eryl Green was al­ways happy and smil­ing, her fam­ily said. Pros­e­cu­tors showed photo af­ter photo of the girl laugh­ing with her mouth open wide. She dreamed of be­ing a pe­di­a­tri­cian be­cause she loved ba­bies, her grand­mother, Mar­lene Townes, tes­ti­fied.

“She just loved life, she loved be­ing in it,” Townes said.

Chanel Blish, Ash’s sis­ter, sobbed un­con­trol­lably as she re­called how pro­tec­tive Ash was of his sis­ters and de­scribed how he al­ways made her laugh.

“Be­cause my dad is dis­abled and can’t walk, I was go­ing to have him walk me down the aisle,” tes­ti­fied Blish, whose fam­ily has since moved to Texas. “Now, I can’t even have that.”

Fajardo is set to be sen­tenced Jan. 6.

Ge­naro Molina

Ge­naro Molina/

KILLER: Jonathan Fajardo gives fam­ily mem­bers the thumbs up sig­nal as he en­ters the court­room, be­fore learn­ing that the jury had voted for the death penalty.

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