CA high court tosses gang leader's death sentence

December 5, 2011 - 3:15 PM

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The California Supreme Court ruled unanimously Monday to toss out the murder conviction and death sentence of a Los Angeles gang leader who authorities believe was the "shot caller" for as many as 60 killings.

The court found that the judge presiding over Cleamon "Big Evil" Johnson's 1997 murder trial erred in removing a juror accused of deciding the case before deliberations. His co-defendant, Michael "Fat Rat" Allen, also had his conviction and death sentence overturned.

Johnson led the 89 Family Bloods during the 1980s and early 1990s. He and Allen both were sentenced to death after they were convicted in the 1991 murders of two rival gang members at a South-Central Los Angeles car wash.

Los Angeles prosecutors will have to seek a new trial if they want to reinstate the convictions.