Three men pleaded guilty Friday to criminally negligent homicide in the 2009 death of Desirae Douglas, a 17-year-old killed in a shootout at a raucous East Anchorage party.
Parrish Harris, 22, Eon Owens, 23, and Shearn Joshua, 23, each received sentences of 30 months -- the jail time they have already served, the judge said -- in a plea agreement that left many questions unanswered. All three had originally been indicted on murder charges, along with two other men, in 2011. State prosecutors dropped the charges against the two others, Julio Batista and Paul Baldwin, because of a lack of evidence.
Assistant District Attorney Joshua Kindred said police were never able to figure out who actually fired the shot that killed Douglas, by all accounts an innocent bystander at the party on East 36th Avenue. But the three defendants, who sat handcuffed together in the courtroom Friday, admitted to having engaged in the gunfight, Kindred said.
"When you really dig deep into this case, I don't think they shot out of fear," Kindred said. "The only currency that matters to them is toughness. They didn't shoot out of fear. They shot out of vanity."
Another man, Devante Jordan, 19, probably fired the first shot during a fight at the party, and he is likely also responsible for the shot that killed Douglas, Kindred said. Jordan died in 2011 in a separate shooting, which resulted in a murder conviction for Marquinn Jones-Nelson this summer.
Prosecutors had described the gunfire that killed Douglas as a battle between two rival gangs that grew out of a fistfight.
Defense attorneys for the three men said their clients returned fire to protect themselves. While they agreed the case fit the definition of negligent homicide closely enough for their clients to plead guilty to that charge, attorneys for all three men said they would have claimed self-defense at trial.
Kindred said there is an exception to self-defense: Under Alaska law, rival gang members who engage in a deadly shooting are not allowed to make that claim at trial. Owens' attorney, Shelley Chaffin, said she would have challenged that exception if the case had gone to trial.
It would have been the first legal test of the "rival exception," Judge Jack Smith said.
"It would've been a tough case for the state to try," Smith said. "On the other hand, the defendants had an extensive risk."
Kindred said he would not be surprised to see the men in court again someday.
Attorneys for the accused men disagreed, saying their clients had learned an important lesson and would not be getting in trouble again.
Efforts to reach the victim's mother were unsuccessful, and the prosecutor's office left a voicemail message for her father letting him know about the Friday hearing, Kindred said. No statements were made on behalf of Douglas during the sentencing.
Douglas' aunt, Jeanetta Douglas, learned of the case's outcome when a reporter called Friday afternoon. She said Douglas' father, her brother, knew about the hearing.
"He didn't want to go because he knew he would be disappointed," Jeanetta Douglas said. "A dead man can't talk, so of course they put it on him. I'm upset, I'm really upset. No one goes down, nobody does time for my niece's murder."
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