A jury today acquitted Carnell Taylor Jr., the man accused of gunning down 26-year-old Jamal Gaines in Japantown earlier this year, saying, among other things, witnesses had wildly different descriptions of the suspect.
After five days of deliberating, the jury decided that Taylor, 25, was not guilty of all charges, including murder, discharging a firearm into a car, possession of a firearm, as well as multiple gang enhancements. He was facing life in prison if convicted.
Gaines was shot to death on Jan. 19 at about 5:30 p.m. while sitting in his parked Mercedes near the corner of Post and Fillmore streets. Witnesses told police that a man walked up to the driver's window and fired multiple gunshots at the victim. Gaines drove off, but crashed into another car. He was taken to SF General Hospital where he was pronounced dead at 6:15 p.m.
The suspect reportedly fled down Post Street; 11 days later, police arrested Taylor.
During the trial, which lasted three weeks, the prosecution tried to prove the killing was gang-related. They accused Taylor of being a member of the Eddy Rock gang and that Gaines was part of a rival gang called Chopper City. However, the prosecution's theories didn't hold up as witnesses gave differing accounts of the killing.
Some witness said the gunman wore a puffy jacket, but Taylor was seen on video wearing a denim jacket with buttons right after the shooting, just six blocks away. What's more, defense attorneys said that cellphone towers couldn't pinpoint his location.
"This was a tragic murder, but Mr. Taylor did not commit the crime," Chief Attorney Matt Gonzalez, who represented Taylor, wrote in a statement. "I am gratified by the jurors' diligence. They waded through all the evidence and ultimately determined that Mr. Taylor was not guilty."
Gaines was a student at City College where he was studying to be a radiologist. After his death, the school honorary awarded Gaines a certificate in medical diagnostics, because if had lived he would have passed the class, according to an NBC report.