CA high court tosses gang leader's death sentence

December 5, 2011 - 3:10 PM

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The California Supreme Court has tossed 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.

Cleamon "Big Evil" Johnson led the 89 Family Bloods during the 1980s and early 1990s. He and Michael "Fat Rat" Allen 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.

A unanimous high court ruled Monday that the judge presiding over the 1997 murder trial erred in removing a juror accused of deciding the case before deliberations. Allen's conviction and death sentence also were overturned.

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