Jury deadlocks over fatal baseball bat beating, resulting in mistrial

SAN DIEGO — Jurors deadlocked Thursday in the murder trial of a man accused of beating a 71-year-old man to death with a baseball bat in a North Park alleyway nearly two decades ago.

The San Diego Superior Court panel deliberated for three days and heard two separate rounds of closing arguments from attorneys before declaring Thursday afternoon that they were hopelessly split 9-3 in favor of conviction, forcing Judge Runston G. Maino to declare a mistrial.

The prosecution has yet to announce whether Edward Jamar Brooks, 39, will be retried for the murder of LeRay Parkins, who was found in an alley off the 3700 block of 28th Street on Aug. 23, 2000. He died at a hospital three days later of injuries that included two skull fractures and brain bleeding.

Co-defendants Lester Bell, 39, and Terrence Brown, 38, pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and robbery, respectively, and await sentencing.

Deputy District Attorney Christina Arrollado alleged the trio encountered Parkins in the alleyway, where Brooks struck him in the head with the bat and stole his wallet. The men then allegedly went on a shopping spree with the victim’s credit cards just hours later at a Spring Valley gas station and an Escondido clothing store.

Brooks’ attorney, Robert Ford, argued that Brown was Parkins’ actual killer and that the co-defendants — two “lifelong friends” who grew up in North Park together — conspired to blame Brooks, the “odd man out.”

According to the prosecution, Parkins was out for a morning walk when he was attacked by the defendants, who were looking for a target to rob.

After allegedly striking the victim in the head, Brooks snatched Parkins’ wallet out of his right front pocket, which was corroborated by DNA evidence, the prosecutor said.

Ford alleged that his client went to North Park with Bell and Brown on Aug. 23 to buy marijuana, but the dealer was not home.

The defense attorney said that as the trio prepared to leave, Brown got into a fistfight with Parkins, which the victim was winning, despite being much older than Brown.

The attorney alleged that Brooks, in an effort to break up the fight, grabbed Parkins by the arms and shoved him to the ground, then was commanded by one of the other men to grab Parkins’ wallet, which accounted for his DNA on the victim’s clothing.

When the trio got back to their car, Brown felt slighted for losing a fight to a 71-year-old man, so he went back with a bat he kept in the car’s trunk and bludgeoned Parkins, the defense attorney alleged.

“(Brooks) had no intent to kill. He didn’t even have intent to rob until they told him to take his wallet,” Ford told the jury. “Mr. Brown is skating away with a robbery charge in this case.”

Arrollado argued taht even if jurors believed Brooks did not deliver the fatal blows with the baseball bat, “his action or inaction played a role in the death,” making him still guilty of first-degree murder by aiding in the robbery and beating and doing nothing to stop Parkins’ death.

Months after the killing, a baseball bat alleged to be the murder weapon was found at a Spring Valley home frequented by the defendants, but authorities lacked sufficient evidence at the time to arrest them for the murder.

The prosecutor said advances in DNA technology allowed investigators to retest the victim’s shorts in 2018, which turned up Brooks’ DNA in one of the pockets.

The trio were arrested in different states last summer — Brooks in North Carolina, Bell in Colorado and Brown in Arizona.

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