Saturday, February 24 , 2018, 7:54 am | Fair 32º

 
 
 
 

Local News

Mistrial Declared in Lompoc Gang-Related Fatal Stabbing Trial

Pair of defendants found not guilty of first-degree murder charges, but jurors deadlocked on lesser charges

Defendant Edward Carter, left, stands next to his attorney, Brian Carroll, with co-defendant Dequan Matthews next to his attorney, David Bixby in a Santa Maria courtroom. Carter and Matthews were found not guilty of first-degree murder, but a mistrial was declared after the jury was unable to agree on a verdict for lesser charges in the June 2015 fatal stabbing of a rival gang member. Click to view larger
Defendant Edward Carter, left, stands next to his attorney, Brian Carroll, with co-defendant Dequan Matthews next to his attorney, David Bixby in a Santa Maria courtroom. Carter and Matthews were found not guilty of first-degree murder, but a mistrial was declared after the jury was unable to agree on a verdict for lesser charges in the June 2015 fatal stabbing of a rival gang member. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

A Santa Barbara County Superior Court jury on Tuesday found two Lompoc men not guilty of first-degree murder in the fatal stabbing of a rival gang member, but could not reach a verdict on a pair of lesser charges.

Santa Maria Judge James Voysey declared a mistrial after the panel said they remained hopelessly deadlocked in the trial of Dequan Matthews and Edward Carter.

The not-guilty verdict brought sobs from family and friends of the victim, rival gang member, Jesse “Dizzy” Lara, 29, who was fatally stabbed in early June 2015 on the 400 block of North M Street.

But the judge met with attorneys in chambers and returned to quiz jurors about the fact verdict forms for the lesser charges — second-degree murder or voluntary manslaughter — were not completed, asking the panel of 11 women and one man to deliberate further. However, the deadlock remained.

Linked to the Six Deuce Brims gang, the two defendants were among four people arrested in connection with the death of the rival gang member in what prosecutors contend stemmed from gang warfare, while defense attorneys argued it was self defense.

Deputy District Attorney Lynmarc Jenkins told jurors the death occurred due to gang warfare, contending the men entered the rival gang territory seeking revenge because Carter had been attacked earlier in the day.

“This case, as I told you from the very beginning, is about gang warfare,” Jenkins said in his closing argument. “It’s about two rivals attacking each other, killing each other, because they want to be number one and that is not something that we as a society can tolerate.”

The prosecutor contended Matthews, whose gang moniker is “Thumps,” wielded the knife that killed Lara, a high-ranking VLP gang member, while Carter, nicknamed “​EdRed” planned, arranged, instigated, drove and participated in the incident. 

Jenkins told the jury self defense wasn’t initially cited by the defendants as the reason for the killing.

“The story changed because they were caught,” Jenkins said. “It didn’t change because it was self defense.”

Four people were initially arrested in connection with the fatal stabbing. A juvenile ended up testifying for the prosecution and defendant Damian Simpson accepted a plea and is awaiting sentencing.

Defendant Edward Carter was found not guilty of first-degree murder and Santa Maria Judge James Voysey declared a mistrial after the jury was deadlocked on a verdict for lesser charges related to the fatal stabbing case. Click to view larger
Defendant Edward Carter was found not guilty of first-degree murder and Santa Maria Judge James Voysey declared a mistrial after the jury was deadlocked on a verdict for lesser charges related to the fatal stabbing case.  (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

While the juvenile defendant testified for the prosecution, the substance of the evidence came from social media posts, videos, the weapon and autopsy results, Jenkins added.

“We know this was a murder because of wound placement,” Jenkins said, adding the victim had stab wounds in his back and was struck so hard the knife tip broke off in his spine.

Defense attorneys claimed the attack wasn’t planned since the quartet was in a distinctive silver Dodge Neon with pink rims, eyelashes above headlights and pink windshield wipers. 

During his testimony on the witness stand, Matthews, who was represented by defense attorney David Bixby, claimed he carried the kitchen knife because he had been jumped weeks earlier, losing teeth in the attack. 

As the four Six Deuce Brims fought the rival gang members, Matthews testified that he used the knife after slipping in fluid on the street and fearing for his safety. 

Dequan Matthews, one of two defendants in a fatal stabbing case from Lompoc, was found not guilty of first-degree murder, but the jurors remained deadlocked on lesser charges of second-degree murder and voluntary manslaughter. Click to view larger
Dequan Matthews, one of two defendants in a fatal stabbing case from Lompoc, was found not guilty of first-degree murder, but the jurors remained deadlocked on lesser charges of second-degree murder and voluntary manslaughter. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

Defense attorney Brian Carroll, who represented Carter, denied the quartet entered the neighborhood to launch an attack. 

“Something was thrown at their car or they would have kept driving,” he said during closing argument. 

When the Six Deuce Brims members got out of the car to fight their rivals, the vehicle’s tires were slashed.

“When they slashed the tires it’s not just that they’re vandalizing the car or trying to scare or something like that. They are eliminating their ability to escape. They are trapping these people in here,” Carroll added.

On Tuesday, the judge ordered the attorneys and defendants, who remain in custody of the Santa Barbara County Jail, to return Sept. 19 when Voysey expects to set a new trial date unless a plea agreement is reached.

Afterward, the prosecutor had no comment about the deadlocked jury, noting the case is not over.

Bixby, a veteran defense attorney, noted the jurors had asked 40 questions, during both the trial and deliberations.

“In my opinion, as far as conscientiousness, asking questions and being relevant, this jury was as good as I've seen,” Bixby said.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click here to get started >

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through PayPal below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments.

Thank you for your vital support.



Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >