Cameron Terrell, the former Palos Verdes High School student accused of joining an inner-city gang and driving the getaway car during a violent ordeal that left a 21-year-old dead, was found not guilty on Monday of murder and two other charges.
Terrell thanked the judge and embraced his lawyer after the verdict was read in Los Angeles County Superior Court about 2 p.m.
Family members of the victim, Justin Holmes, shook their heads in disbelief as they left the courtroom.
Terrell’s family and supporters followed, some holding back tears. Before the verdict was read, they held hands and prayed outside the courtroom.
The 18-year-old had faced one count of murder and two counts of attempted murder with gang and gun allegations in the South Los Angeles shooting last year.
The trial took a little more than a week before it was handed over to the jury on Friday, July 13. On Wednesday, jurors asked the judge to review video of Terrell’s interview with police.
Prosecutors had said that in October 2017, Terrell drove two armed juveniles to 78th Street and Western Avenue, where the two companions got out and confronted three men believed to be rival gang members before pulling a gun and firing.
The juveniles then raced back to Terrell’s Mercedes Benz sedan, with Terrell driving them away.
Terrell’s lawyer, Jovan Blacknell, had told jurors that his client was not a gang member and did not know the juveniles were armed—he had thought they wanted to tag rival gang territory.
After the incident became public, upsetting a lot of parents at the school, Terrell, out on $5 million bail, left the campus to complete his education in an off-site program. Many defendants cannot make bail, but his parents owned a home with an estimated value of $2.5 million.
Terrell walked free from the courtroom, smiling, then stood beside his attorneys at a news conference.
Blacknell said from the start of the investigation, his client faced an unfair process focused on his affluent background, Facebook posts and rap songs, rather than the facts of the case.
Terrell faced “blatant overcharging,” he said.
“Cameron Terrell did not possess any weapons, he did not shoot anybody, he was not part of any conspiracy or any plan or plot to commit any crime,” Blacknell said, adding that the evidence showed Terrell was a witness at best.
“They tried to make the story as salacious as possible during the trial, but once you get back to the real core, I think it was clear that Cameron didn’t commit any crime,” Blacknell said.
Terrell expressed sympathy for Holmes’s family and told reporters that the murder weighed heavily on him.
“God knows what really happened that day and God knows what was in my head,” he said.
Terrell said the trial has inspired him to study law and become a criminal defense attorney. He said he will attend the University of Houston in the fall.
Blacknell did not know the status of the case against the two juveniles in the case, saying it was under seal.
“I’m just happy to be free, I’m happy this is over with and I pray for Justin Holmes’s family every single night of my life,” Terrell said.