Lawyers for three young men convicted of first-degree murder in the death of a La Jolla High School graduate lured by a Craigslist ad say they need to do some more homework.
As a result, sentencing that had been scheduled Friday for the trio has been delayed for more than two months.
The lawyers said they needed time to study the evolving sentencing structure for juveniles convicted as adults.
“I agree—this is a new area of the law,” said Judge Kerry Wells in San Diego Superior Court. She rescheduled sentencing for May 31.
Rashon Abernathy, 19, faces up to 60 years to life in prison. Friends Seandell Jones and Shaquille Jordan, also 19, face a sentence of 50 years to life.
All were 17 at the time of the murder.
Wil Rumble, Jones’ attorney, said the defense lawyers needed to analyze prohibitions in the 8th and 14th amendments of the U.S. Constitution against “cruel and unusual” punishment.
The defendants were convicted in the May 11, 2011, robbery-murder of 18-year-old Garrett Berki, a 2010 graduate of La Jolla High School. Berki’s girlfriend went with him to check out the computer for sale and was also a victim of robbery.
The jury also found Abernathy guilty of robbery for stealing $600 from a Navy man who responded to a Craigslist ad to buy a similar computer on May 5,
In his closing argument, prosecutor Kristian Trocha said Berki died because Abernathy “brought a gun to a robbery.”
The prosecutor said Berki went to Paradise Hills about 10 p.m. with his girlfriend to buy a MacBook Pro computer advertised on Craigslist for $600. The
defendants grabbed the money and the victims’ cell phones and got into a stolen car driven by Jordan, he said.
Berki and his girlfriend were headed to report the theft when he spotted the defendants’ car and gave chase on state Route 54, Trocha said.
The cars exited the freeway several miles away and ended up front-to-front in a cul-de-sac.
Abernathy fired one shot through the windshield of the victims’ car, striking Berki in the shoulder, the prosecutor said. Berki died about 45 minutes later.
Jordan drove off but crashed the car in a nearby cul-de-sac and the defendants ran off, only to be arrested a short time later, Trocha said.
Abernathy’s attorney, Kathleen Coyne, told the jury that her client admitted doing the robberies and brandishing a gun but was not guilty of murder. She urged an involuntary manslaughter conviction.
Coyne said Abernathy didn’t know the gun that killed Berki was loaded, and it discharged accidentally when Jordan suddenly hit the brakes.
—City News Service contributed to this report.