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Archive for Thursday, July 25, 1996

JURY CONVICTS TOPEKA MAN ON MANSLAUGHTER CHARGES

July 25, 1996

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William Franco Garcia was convicted for his part in a March 31 gang-related shooting.

and Matt Gowen

An 18-year-old Topeka man was convicted Wednesday night of two felonies in a March 31 gang-related shooting in Lawrence.

After jury deliberations of more than six hours, William Franco Garcia was found guilty of attempted voluntary manslaughter. The conviction carries less severe penalties than Garcia's original charge of attempted second-degree murder.

Garcia also was found guilty of criminal possession of a firearm. He was acquitted of an aggravated assault charge.

During deliberations, jurors asked that a portion of Anthony Wisdom's testimony be read back to them. Wisdom was shot in the right leg by Garcia during a fight at a party.

"We considered each charge individually and based our judgment on the law," the jury's foreman said after the verdict.

He said the jury chose to convict Garcia of manslaughter because "there was considerable confusion about the sequence of events" and that an attempted-murder conviction was difficult with such confusion.

Garcia's attorney, Randy McGrath, spoke of the confusion in his closing arguments.

"Will you please just give us a straight story?" McGrath said he asked of certain witnesses to the shooting.

Douglas County Assistant Dist. Atty. Jerry Little, the prosecuting attorney, said there should be little confusion about Garcia and the shooting.

"His intent was to attempt to kill those people," Little told jurors during closing arguments.

Garcia could face 38 to 159 months in prison on the two convictions. Sentencing was set for 1:30 p.m. Sept. 20.

Garcia shot Wisdom during a party at Eddingham Place apartments in the 1400 block of Eddingham Drive. Authorities have said that about 50 people, many of them gang members, were at the party. Wisdom has said he was not in a gang.

The shooting has led to several retaliatory incidents involving gangs, police said.

The jury foreman said increased gang activity had nothing to do with the four-man, eight-woman panel's decision.

"No. It was irrelevant to our decision," he said.

"I think it is a fair verdict and it sends a message ... that this community will not tolerate gang activity," Little said.

McGrath disagreed.

"I don't believe criminal convictions send messages," McGrath said. "If anyone in the district attorney's office thinks it sends a message, I really think they're kidding themselves."

McGrath added that Garcia's conviction will not stop youths from carrying guns.

Though his client was convicted of a lesser charge, McGrath said he had mixed feelings about the verdict.

"I'm disappointed -- I thought he had a shot at getting acquitted," he said.

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