Former pro football player Anthony Smith has been convicted for the murders of three men. However, jury confusion and a mistrial on a fourth murder charge has raised questions about whether jurors ruled fairly.
Smith’s attorney, Michael Evans, plans to appeal the decision — which was read Thursday — but will first file a motion for a new trial, the Los Angeles Times reported.
“I am a true believer in the jury system, but I respectfully disagree with their decisions on counts 1, 2 and 3,” he said after Smith’s verdict was read.
Charges one, two, and three are for the murders of brothers Ricky and Kevin Nettles in 1999 and Dennis Henderson in 2001. Anthony Smith faces three life terms in prison without parole and will be sentenced December 21. The jury also found Smith guilty of special circumstances in relation to the killings, including kidnapping, torture, and multiple murders.
The prosecution said Anthony Smith posed as a police officer on November 10, 1999, and kidnapped the Nettles brothers from their carwash business in Los Angeles. The next day, both were found dead. They had been tortured and shot to death and, according to KABC, both had duct tape wrapped around their heads. Smith had branded Ricky Nettles’ stomach with a clothing iron.
A couple of years later, Smith kidnapped Henderson, whose body was found the next day in a rental car, beaten and stabbed. Prosecutors said Anthony knew the victim’s brother and lived next door to him.
Anthony Smith’s attorney argued in court that the prosecution’s witnesses didn’t convincingly recognize him as the suspect, nor did the prosecution produce DNA, fingerprints, or a handgun to link Smith to the murders.
And the murder of a fourth man, Maurillo Ponce, may derail the other charges. This is the second time a jury has failed to convict Anthony Smith for the murder of this man, who was killed in 2008 and found near the Antelope Valley poppy fields. The mechanic had been shot six times.
In 2012, Smith faced a murder charge in connection with his death, but the jury deadlocked. As Anthony awaited a retrial, he was charged with the other three murders.
But here’s the issue, according to Smith’s attorney. The jury was split on that murder charge nine to three, and afterward, a juror came forward to tell the judge that his fellow jurors hadn’t properly followed the law as they debated the Ponce charge. He claimed that they deliberated second-degree murder, even though they were supposed to have considered and rejected first-degree murder first.
And if they were confused that time, they may have been just as stumped while deliberating the other three murder counts, Evans has argued; deliberation took eight days.
Anthony Smith’s criminal behavior began in 2003, when he was charged but not convicted of firebombing a furniture store after getting into a spat with the owner over money. A decade before, Anthony’s demeanor had apparently changed.
Smith said in 1994 that “I have grown to despise it. Someone’s desire to trick me or cheat me out of what I have, that makes me sick.”
He played pro ball with the Los Angeles and Oakland Raiders in the 1990s and was a top draft pick in 1990. Smith signed a four-year contract worth $7.6 million after his third season. Anthony opted out of his contract in 1997 and never played with another team.
Anthony was apparently a generous man back in those days. He volunteered to mentor kids in a Los Angeles city housing authority youth program and treated them to trips.
[Photo By Jonathan Daniel / Getty Images]