The refusal of an accomplice to abide by his plea deal and testify about a shocking carjacking-turned-killing in Algiers in 2012 didn’t help Milton “Bullet” Wilson with an Orleans Parish jury on Wednesday.
Seven women and five men deliberated for just 58 minutes before convicting Wilson, 19, of second-degree murder shortly after 2 p.m.
Wilson’s attorney, Edward Rantz, acknowledged that his client’s defense — that Wilson was merely a follower in an impromptu killing — couldn’t stand up against damning security videos that showed the crime in the early morning of Nov. 25, 2012, from multiple angles.
The footage was taken from cameras in the strip mall where 27-year-old Fernando Eyzaguirre, a computer-technology student at Southeastern Louisiana University, had gone to work out at Anytime Fitness, four blocks from the Tall Timbers home he shared with his parents.
The videos showed three men around Eyzaguirre’s car, including one — identified as Wilson — pointing a gun at Eyzaguirre’s face to force him out of the car. Eyzaguirre handed over his keys. But prosecutors claim that two of the men, Wilson and Marke “Fresh” Simmons, fired on him anyway from close range.
Eyzaguirre suffered seven bullet wounds and fell to the ground. Four hours later, he was found in front of the Subway sandwich shop in the strip mall, face down.
The shooters and another man, pegged as Jaroid “Roy” Washington, had jumped in the victim’s car and sped off. Eyzaguirre’s Honda later was found in Waveland, Mississippi, with DNA evidence that pointed to Simmons, police said.
“Absolutely, the video was pretty hard to overcome. It was very clear about it,” Rantz said after the verdict. “The system worked.”
Wilson, who is scheduled to be sentenced on June 13, was “stoic” after his conviction, Rantz said.
Assistant District Attorneys Inga Petrovich and Payal Patel tried the case against Wilson.
Because he was a juvenile at the time of the killing, Wilson will not automatically be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole, probation or suspension of his sentence, as he would be as an adult. But that’s the sentence District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro will seek from Criminal District Court Judge Karen Herman because of “the particularly heinous nature of the crime as well as Wilson’s apparent lack of any remorse,” the DA said in a statement after the verdict.
Wilson was the first to stand trial in the brutal killing. Simmons and three others also were indicted in the case.
Washington, 18, took a 23-year prison sentence after pleading guilty to manslaughter and armed robbery in February, in exchange for his testimony against the others.
But Washington got cold feet Tuesday, citing concerns for his safety if he testified. He refused to take the witness stand despite a stern caution from Herman. The judge warned him that his guilty pleas would remain, and she would increase his sentence if he didn’t testify. Washington stood fast.
Cannizzaro’s office said it plans to ask Herman to vacate Washington’s 23-year sentence. He faces as much as 40 years in prison on the manslaughter count and 99 years on the armed robbery charge.
“This was a truly horrific crime, and I want to put as many of these defendants as I can away for a significant period of time,” Cannizzaro said. “While trial strategy sometimes requires me to make plea agreements with violent criminals, if they refuse to cooperate in the criminal proceedings, which is the only evidence of remorse that he can show this victim’s family, I will not hesitate to seek the lengthiest prison sentence law will allow.”
Also charged in Eyzaguirre’s murder and related crimes is Erin Doucet, the alleged getaway driver, who is not seen in the videos. Desmonique Reed, Simmons’ girlfriend, is accused of being an accessory to both murder and second-degree robbery for actions she allegedly took after the killing. Trial dates for Simmons and Doucet are expected to be set Friday.
Eyzaguirre’s father, Gilberto Eyzaguirre, said he was pleased with the verdict but “we still have four more people to go.”
He said he has refused to watch the video that helped convict Wilson.
“It’s too traumatizing, to see my son wondering, ‘Why are they shooting me if I’m giving them everything? What’s the reason?’ ” he said after the verdict. “We never found the reason why they did it. They never confessed.”
Follow John Simerman on Twitter, @johnsimerman.