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Final Defendant in Santana Murder
Case Convicted of Murder

March 16, 2004
Contacts: Joe Scott, Director of Communications
Sandi Gibbons, Public Information Officer
Jane Robison, News Secretary
(213) 974-3525

LOS ANGELES – A teenage girl was convicted of murder and attempted murder today in the fatal shooting a year and a half ago of actor Merlin Santana, the District Attorney’s office announced today.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Larry P. Fidler, who conducted the court trial of 17-year-old Monique King, returned the verdicts after an in-depth recitation of his reasoning in reaching the decisions that he did in the case.

King’s trial started out before a jury more than two weeks ago, but early in the trial, a decision was made to have the judge hear the evidence and the jury was excused. As part of that decision, Fidler said, it was agreed that the defendant be sentenced as a juvenile. She was 15 at the time of the murder and originally charged as a juvenile. The juvenile court determined she was unfit to be tried there and the case was transferred to adult court.

Fidler convicted King of one count of second-degree murder and one count of attempted murder. He also found true the allegation that a principal was armed during commission of the crime. He acquitted the defendant of two counts added after the trial began – accessory after the fact and conspiracy to shoot into an occupied building.

King’s sentencing was scheduled for April 20. Deputy District Attorney Greg Dohi, who successfully prosecuted all three defendants, said King could be sentenced to the California Youth Authority, where she could be held until she is 25.

Santana, co-star of television’s "Steve Harvey Show," 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.

Fidler noted that evidence at King’s trial showed the young woman went to co-defendants Damien Andre Gates, 21, and Brandon Douglas Bynes, 25, and lied to them, saying Santana attempted to rape her. Testimony indicated that the defendant’s story "threw Mr. Gates into a fury for whatever reason," the judge said. Gates armed himself with a handgun and rifle, and with Bynes and King, went to find Santana and the victim’s friend.

The judge determined that King aided and abetted the crimes, noting that she knew there was going to be a shooting and she got behind the wheel and drove the other defendants to safety after Santana was killed.

"…Even a 15-year-old knows that if you take a gun and shoot at somebody…somebody is going to get hit, somebody is going to die," Fidler said.

Gates was convicted of first-degree murder and attempted murder by a jury. Fidler sentenced him last month to three consecutive life sentences, plus 70 years. Bynes pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and assault with a deadly weapon. He testified against his co-defendants and March 11, was sentenced by Superior Court Judge Kathleen Kennedy-Powell to an agreed-upon 23-year term.

Santana, who lived in North Hollywood, was 26 when he was killed. His friend survived the attack.

All three defendants were arrested within about two weeks of the murder and have remained in custody since that time.


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