A jury in Orange County Superior Court in Santa Ana, California, convicted a member of a violent white supremacist gang of first-degree murder of a fellow gang member.
On September 14, 2009, the jury found Public Enemy Number One (PEN1) member Billy Joe Johnson, 46, guilty of conspiracy to commit murder and first-degree murder, the latter with the enhancements of murder by lying in wait and murder for the benefit of the gang, for the 2002 ambush slaying of a fellow PEN1 member.
Due to the enhancements involved, the case now moves to a penalty phase in which jurors will determine if Johnson will face the death penalty or life in prison without parole.
On March 8, 2002, Scott Miller, 38, a founding member of PEN1, was found shot in the back of the head at close range in an Anaheim alley.
During Johnson's trial witnesses testified that Johnson brought Miller to the alley claiming they were there for a drug deal. Waiting in the alley were fellow PEN1 members Michael Lamb and Jacob Rump.
One year prior to the murder, Miller participated in a local television interview in which he revealed information about the gang, including its drug trafficking activities. Though the television station altered Miller's voice and only showed him in silhouette, some of his unique tattoos were visible. Miller also brought his pet pit bull dog to the interview. Miller's death was retaliation for the interview.
Lamb, 34, was sentenced to death for murder on August 22, 2008; Rump was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for his role in the murder on October 5, 2007. The two men were convicted on July 10, 2007, of first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit murder, and committing murder for the benefit of a criminal street gang.
Lamb was eligible for the death penalty because the jury determined that he was the actual triggerman in the incident and because Miller was murdered for the benefit of the gang.
In addition to the murder convictions, Rump and Lamb were also convicted of conspiracy to commit a crime, attempted murder of a police officer, street terrorism, and firearms possession charges. Lamb and Rump attempted to kill an Anaheim police officer by shooting at him during a chase involving police several days after Miller's body was found. Ballistics tests revealed that the gun fired at the officer was the same one used to kill Miller.
Rump received additional life terms, as well as a further sentence of 83 years to life in prison, for the other charges.
Johnson did not originally face charges connected to the murder, but during Lamb and Rump's trial he testified for the defense that he, not the defendants, was responsible for killing Miller. Johnson claimed that he shot Miller and that Lamp and Rump were not involved, although he claimed that he did give Lamb the gun the next day. Under cross-examination, Johnson could not correctly describe the firearm, despite testifying that he had owned it for six months.
During his trial, Johnson's defense attorney admitted to the jury that his client was guilty, but claimed it was due to a violent prison system in which he was incarcerated.
Johnson is already serving 45 years to life in prison for beating a man to death with a hammer in Huntington Beach in 2004.