Sunday, 19 May 2024

Hughes acquitted of murder charges but convicted of burglary, assault



A Martinez jury on Friday found a 23-year-old San Francisco man not guilty of two first-degree murder charges for the deaths of his friends in a December 2005 shooting.

The jury verdict, handed down late Friday afternoon, acquitted Renato Hughes Jr. of charges he had been responsible for the shooting deaths of Rashad Williams, 21, and Christian Foster, 22, on Dec. 7, 2005, said District Attorney Jon Hopkins.

In addition, Hopkins said the jury ruled Hughes was innocent of committing robbery, and was not guilty of the attempted murder of a teenage victim at the scene, the Clearlake Park home of Shannon Edmonds.

The 12-woman jury did, however, find Hughes guilty of burglary and found it true that a principal in the incident – Foster – was armed with a shotgun, so Hughes also was found guilty of assault with a firearm on Edmonds, Hopkins said. That charge emerged from Foster's alleged striking of Edmonds in the face with the gun during a struggle.

Defense attorney Stuart Hanlon did not return calls from Lake County News seeking comment Friday.

Hopkins said the jury's verdict is only partial, with Judge Barbara Zuniga instructing the jury to continue deliberating on Monday in order to decide the remainder of the charges.

The jury, said Hopkins, was hung on a lesser assault charge – assault causing great bodily injury – because one juror changed her mind overnight.

During closing arguments on July 24, Hopkins asserted Hughes was part of a “crime team” that broke into Edmonds' home, looking to steal medical marijuana.

Although it was Edmonds who shot and killed Foster and Williams as they ran from his home – during testimony he stated he had shot Foster again once he already was down on the ground – it was Hughes who was charged with homicide.

Hopkins had prosecuted Hughes for the deaths under the provocative act theory, because he allegedly had been part of committing crimes that could result in a lethal response.

During that early morning confrontation at Edmonds' home, which Hopkins said could be heard on the audio of a home surveillance camera, the three men had allegedly fought with Edmonds and assaulted his girlfriend, Lori Tyler.

The men also fought with Tyler's son, Dale Lafferty, 17 at the time, who Williams allegedly beat in the head with a metal bat to the point where Lafferty suffered permanent brain damage. The jury's verdict on Friday included clearing Hughes of Lafferty's attempted murder.

Hanlon, in his closing statements, had argued that Hughes was a very minor player in the incident. He insisted that Edmonds' shooting of Foster and Williams was more a matter of vigilante justice than provocation, and had included the reloading of a pistol in order to continue shooting at the men and administer the “coup de grace” to an already wounded and prostrate Foster.

“I find it difficult to explain the verdict,” Hopkins said Friday evening. “They found that he was part of the crime scene which means that they should have found him guilty of at least one of the murders. But it could be that they did not understand the law. It's very complex.”

He declined to comment further on the jury's actions because the jury is still deciding the final charge.

The jury had begun deliberations on July 28, after a lengthy trial that began June 11 in Martinez, where the trial was moved earlier this year due to a change of venue ruling, as Lake County News has reported.

Adding to the drama of the case, on Friday the verdict was scheduled to be read at 1:30 p.m. However, Hopkins said there was an issue with instructions. That ended up delaying the reading of the verdict by a few hours.

Hopkins said the jury will return to deliberations at 9:30 a.m. Monday in order to finish the business of deciding the remaining assault charge. “It'll be resolved Monday,” he said.

Williams had gained national attention in the 1990s for his efforts to raise funds to assist the victims of the Columbine High School shootings.

Months before the incident in Clearlake, he had been convicted of two counts of unarmed bank robbery and uttering counterfeit obligations in February of 2005. His sentencing was scheduled for February 2006.

According to federal court documents, Williams had taken more than $5,541 from a Union Bank of California in Danville on Feb. 10, 2005, and five days later took $4,671 from a Westamerica Bank in Lafayette.

Acting as Williams' defense attorneys in that case were Hanlon and Sara Rief, who worked together on Hughes' defense.

In May, a federal court judge dismissed a civil rights action suit brought by Foster's and Williams' families against the city of Clearlake and the county of Lake.

The suit alleged the city and county officials were responsible for the mens' deaths because they had allowed Edmonds and Tyler to unlawfully sell drugs and possess firearms, as Lake County News has reported.

Edmonds and Tyler remain the main defendants in the case, which is scheduled to go to trial in September 2009.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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