A Fresno man is on trial in Fresno Superior Court for murder in connection with the killing of a Hoover High student who was shot during a marijuana deal gone bad two years ago.
Both sides agree Lorenzo Darnell Anderson, 21, did not fatally shoot 17-year-old Andrew Vann in east-central Fresno in March 2016, but say Anderson was there when it happened.
In opening statements, defense lawyer Roberto Dulce told the jury that Anderson had no motive to kill Vann and was merely an unsuspecting witness to his killing. In fact, Anderson saved the life of Vann's friend, Dulce said.
But prosecutor Brian Hutchins said Anderson played a key role in Vann's murder by setting up the drug deal on Facebook.
Anderson is being tried under the felony-murder rule, which says if someone is killed during the commission of a dangerous felony, a defendant can be found guilty of murder, even if he or she didn't pull the trigger.
In this case, Hutchins accused Anderson of attempting to rob Vann of marijuana before his partner shot Vann in the back.
Dulce, however, contends Anderson tried to steal the marijuana without using force or fear. If jurors find that Anderson was merely a thief, then he is not eligible under the felony murder rule.
Anderson is being tried alone because the shooter has not been arrested. In interviews with Fresno police detectives, Anderson lied and declined to name the shooter, Hutchins told the jury.
The trial, which began April 10, resumes Tuesday in Judge Jane Cardoza's courtroom. It is expected to take one to two more weeks.
Anderson has been in the Fresno County Jail since his arrest two months after Vann was killed.
The fatal shooting happened around 7:15 p.m. March 31, 2016 near the Northeast Assembly of God Church near Chestnut and Holland avenues. Vann was shot as he sat in the driver's seat of a car.
So far, jurors have heard testimony from police who arrived at the crime scene and from Vann's passenger, and viewed a police body-camera video of a mortally wounded Vann as he grasped for air.
Hutchins said Vann had two friends who sold marijuana on Facebook. He said Anderson used his Facebook account to set up a drug deal with them. Vann then drove one of his friends to Chestnut and Holland, where Anderson tried to rob them of the marijuana, Hutchins told the jury.
Because Vann wouldn't give Anderson the marijuana, the defendant's partner shot Vann, Hutchins said. The bullets pierced Vann's lungs. Soon after, Anderson and the shooter ran, Hutchins said. Vann was later pronounced dead at Community Regional Medical Center.
Anderson is guilty of murder, Hutchins told the jury, because Anderson messaged a friend on Facebook before the fatal shooting and talked about doing a robbery. According to Hutchins, Anderson said in his message: "I'm fixing to go do a lick." A "lick" is a street term for robbery, Hutchins said.
Hutchins said the friend told Anderson: "Don't do that, don't be bad." But, according to Hutchins, Anderson replied, "LOL."
"He admits to being at the scene (of the killing) but says his partner did it," Hutchins told the jury.
But Dulce contends that there's no proof that Anderson sent the message. It could have been sent by the shooter, he said. In addition, why would Anderson be involved in a murder, if he set up the drug deal on his own Facebook account, which police could easily trace to him, Dulce said.
To bolster his case, Hutchins told the jury that Anderson did a similar attempted robbery 11 days before Vann was killed. In that March 20, 2016, incident, a marijuana transaction was set up on Facebook. A man and woman met Anderson outside the Northeast Assembly of God Church, Hutchins said.
Hutchins said Anderson tried to rob the couple of their marijuana, but failed. So is partner shot toward the car. A bullet nicked the woman, causing her to suffer an abrasions.
The couple did not report the shooting to police, but officers later found them and got their statements. Dulce told the jury the couple were unsure of their assailants' identities. But Hutchins said the woman was able to identify Anderson during his preliminary hearing in September last year.
The couple was subpoenaed to testify in Anderson's trial, but didn't show up. So jurors were allowed to hear the couple's preliminary hearing testimony.