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One Defendant Pleads Guilty in Merlin Santana Killing

January 26, 2004
Contacts: Joe Scott, Director of Communications
Sandi Gibbons, Public Information Officer
Jane Robison, News Secretary
(213) 974-3525

LOS ANGELES – One of three people charged in the 2002 shooting death of actor Merlin Santana pleaded guilty today to voluntary manslaughter and assault with a deadly weapon, the District Attorney’s office announced.

The plea by Brandon Douglas Bynes, 25, came as jury selection was under way for one of the co-defendants, said Deputy District Attorney Greg Dohi.  Bynes and the other two were to have one trial but separate juries were to be impaneled.

Jury selection is under way for co-defendant Damien Andre Gates, 21.  After a jury is selected for Gates, one will be picked for co-defendant Monique King, 16.

Bynes entered his plea before Superior Court Judge Larry P. Fidler, who scheduled sentencing for Feb. 10.  The defendant is to receive a 23-year state prison term, said Dohi.

The prosecutor said Bynes might be called as a witness at the trial of the other two.

Santana, 26, of North Hollywood, was shot in the head and killed as he and a friend were in a car leaving another man’s home in the Crenshaw District of Los Angeles on Nov. 9, 2002.  The complaint against Gates and Bynes alleged that Gates fired a rifle and Bynes a handgun during the attack on the co-star of television’s “Steve Harvey Show.”

King was charged as an adult after the juvenile court last year found her unfit to be tried as a juvenile.  She and Gates are charged with one count each of murder and attempted murder.  Each faces a possible maximum term of life in prison with the possibility of parole.

All three defendants have been in custody since their arrests shortly after the murder.


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