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Plea Talks Underway After Second Mistrial for Co-Defendant in Fatal Lompoc Stabbing

A co-defendant in a fatal gang-related stabbing in Lompoc will return to Santa Barbara County Superior Court next month as talks regarding a possible plea deal continue ahead of a potential third trial.

Edward Carter, 23, of Lompoc appeared Monday morning alongside his attorney from the Public Defender’s Office, Brian Carroll, days after a mistrial was declared in a retrial for second-degree murder.

Carter was one of four people arrested following the fatal stabbing of a rival gang member, 29-year-old Jesse Lara, in June 2015. The fight between the Six Deuce Brims and VLPs occurred on the 400 block of North M Street.

While Deputy District Attorney Lynmarc Jenkins called the case gang warfare, the defendants’ attorneys contended the fatal stabbing was self defense.

In his first trial in 2016, Carter and co-defendant Dequan Matthews were acquitted of first-degree murder but jurors remained divided on lesser charges, leading Judge James Voysey to declare a mistrial.

In the second trial, which started in October and ended with a verdict last week, Matthews was found guilty of second-degree murder along with a special allegation a knife was used in the crime. 

Last week, the judge ordered Matthews to return for sentencing in March.

Carter drove the vehicle to the crime scene but ran away from the fight that ended with Lara’s death, according to court testimony.

Jurors were divided again on Carter’s role, leading to discussions about a possible plea deal to avoid a third trial. 

Carroll told Judge James Voysey that plea deal discussions were occurring but remained unsettled, and the case was continued to Feb. 13. 

A third trial could complicate other court cases that have been waiting for the fatal Lompoc stabbing trial to finish. 

Before a third trial’s start, attorneys likely will want to review the transcript from the second trial which spanned three months. That transcript is still being completed, a court reporter told the judge Monday.

The defendant also has a right to a speedy trial — within 60 days or by March 26, officials said in court.

In 2016, a third defendant pleaded no contest to assault with a deadly weapon and was sentenced to seven years in state prison. 

A juvenile, who was 14 years old at the time of the slaying, testified for the prosecution. His case is being handled in Juvenile Court.

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.

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