L.A. Gang Leader’s Death Penalty Conviction Overturned

L.A. Gang Leader’s Death Penalty Conviction Overturned

Ruling that a juror had been improperly dismissed from the original trial, the California Supreme Court overturned the 1997 conviction of Cleamon “Big Evil” Johnson.

Published December 6, 2011

For the first time this year, the California Supreme Court has reversed a decision on a death penalty conviction.


The justices threw out the murder conviction and death penalty sentencing of L.A. gang leader Cleamon “Big Evil” Johnson upon an appeal on Monday. They ruled that the judge in his original case improperly dismissed a juror whose comments suggested he had prejudged the verdict.


In the 1997 case, Johnson was convicted, along with Michael “Fat Rat” Allen, of murdering two rival gang members six years earlier. Johnson led the then-popular 89 Family Bloods gang in the 1980s and early 90s. His leadership is also believed to have been responsible for more than 60 murders in South Central Los Angeles.


In the original deliberations, two jurors told the judge they were concerned a third juror, who reportedly confessed he knew the character of Hispanics, made up his mind before all testimony was heard. In response, the judge removed the juror from the trial and replaced him with an alternate juror who found Johnson and Allen guilty of first-degree murder. Both were recommended for the death penalty.


The Supreme Court ruled that the juror dismissal was not appropriate because there was no clear evidence that he had prejudged the cases.


It is now up to the Los Angeles County District Attorney to decide whether the two men should be retried.


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(Photo: Law Enforcement)

Written by Danielle Wright


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