San Francisco, CA — A man accused of executing a rival gang member in Japantown earlier this year has been found not guilty of all charges following a jury trial, San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi announced today.
The jury deliberated five days before reaching its verdict Thursday afternoon. Jurors acquitted Carnell Taylor Jr., 25, of murder, discharging a firearm into an occupied motor vehicle, possession of a firearm by a prohibited person and multiple gang enhancements. If convicted, Taylor faced life in prison, said Chief Attorney Matt Gonzalez of the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office, who represented Taylor.
Taylor was accused of fatally shooting Jamal Gaines as Gaines sat in his parked Mercedes near the corner of Post and Fillmore streets on Jan. 19. Witnesses said a gunman approached on foot and fired into the driver’s side window. The mortally wounded Gaines drove a short distance before crashing into another car. Police arrested Taylor for the crime 11 days later.
Prosecutors claimed the killing was motivated by tensions between two of the Western Addition’s seven gangs. Taylor was a member of Eddy Rock, they alleged, while Gaines was a member of the rival Chopper City.
The three week trial revealed wildly differing witness accounts of the killing and inconsistent descriptions of the man who shot Gaines, Gonzalez said. Some witnesses described the gunman as wearing a puffy, zippered jacket. However, Taylor was captured on city surveillance approximately six blocks away from the shooting wearing a denim jacket with buttons.
Due to the small geographic area of the Western Addition and adjacent Japantown, cell phone records could not pinpoint Taylor’s proximity to Gaines at the time of the shooting.
“This was a tragic murder, but Mr. Taylor did not commit the crime,” Gonzalez said. “I am gratified by the jurors’ diligence. They waded through all the evidence and ultimately determined that Mr. Taylor was not guilty.”
Adachi said the verdict allows Taylor to clear his name.
“Mr. Taylor maintained his innocence from the beginning. Fortunately, his public defender was able to present evidence that police and prosecutors had the wrong man,” Adachi said.