A state appeals court panel today upheld a Los Angeles man's conviction for the 2017 murders of a Los Feliz gas station clerk and the owner of a Mar Vista medical marijuana dispensary during robberies carried out one day apart and caught on video.
The three-justice panel from California's 2nd District Court of Appeal found that there was "overwhelming evidence" that Kayshon Moody was guilty of first-degree murder for the Jan. 17, 2017, shooting deaths of M.D. Mizu Rahman, 34, at a Chevron station in the 2100 block of North Vermont Avenue and Ovik Oganesyan, 50, at a medical marijuana dispensary at 12480 W. Venice Blvd. the next day.
The appellate court justices found in their 29-page ruling that "the videos clearly showed Moody committing robberies and murders."
"The evidence showed premeditation as well. His arrival at the crime scenes, armed with a loaded gun suggested pre-planning," the panel found, noting that neither of the victims resisted him and that there was no evidence that he shot in a panic.
Along with the murders, jurors found Moody guilty of three counts of second-degree robbery involving the two murder victims and a separate robbery at a fast-food restaurant shortly before Rahman's slaying.
Jurors also found true special-circumstance allegations of murder during the commission of a robbery and multiple murders, along with finding gun allegations true.
The Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office opted before trial not to seek the death penalty against Moody, who was sentenced in February 2019 to two consecutive life prison terms without possibility of parole.
Co-defendant James A. Eastland -- who was indicted with Moody for Oganesyan's killing -- pleaded guilty to murder and robbery charges involving that killing, along with a separate robbery. He testified on behalf of the prosecution in Moody's trial and was sentenced to 40 years to life in state prison in September.
The two men subsequently drove to Las Vegas, according to Eastland, and were pulled over and arrested by Los Angeles police on Jan. 20, 2017, shortly after they returned to Southern California.
DNA evidence from a soda cup lid found at the scene of Rahman's killing and on a 9mm Beretta -- the murder weapon that was found in the driver's side pocket of the Nissan Versa that Moody was driving when he and Eastland were arrested -- linked Moody to the killings, Deputy District Attorney Beth Silverman told jurors in Moody's trial.
Moody's driver's license, which was seen falling from his hands in the surveillance video at the marijuana dispensary -- was left behind at the scene, the prosecutor said, telling jurors there was a "mountain of evidence in this case."
The deputy district attorney told jurors in her closing argument that no mercy was shown to the victims, who were "taken by surprise" and each shot in the back in acts of "gratuitous" violence even though they were "compliant" and "submissive."
Moody's trial attorney, Hui Kim, told jurors she understood they would feel sympathy for the victims, but asked them to "objectively determine" whether Moody was responsible for the killings. She urged the panel to question Eastland's testimony linking Moody to Oganesyan's killing, noting that he had acknowledged lying to detectives in the past and was "receiving a benefit for testifying."
"Someone who's motivated in that manner can't be trusted," Moody's lawyer told jurors.
In a statement read in court on her behalf by a family member at Moody's sentencing, Oganesyan's widow, Armik Iskandaryan, wrote that attending the court proceedings had given her "somewhat of the closure I need."
"I never got to say goodbye to him. That was taken away from me. Instead, I sat in this room watching videos of him being shot, seeing images that have forever changed me, and then was forced to go home and not have my husband to talk to," she wrote, noting that the couple would have celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary in 2018. "My husband, the father of my children and the love of my life, is not here with me today because he was ruthlessly shot."
Addressing the defendant directly, she wrote, "You stripped the love of my life away from me. You deliberately, intentionally and without remorse decided that he should no longer live. You decided that he should no longer take another breath, that he should no longer be able to go home to his wife and children, to speak to his siblings and friends. You decided that he should not be able to fulfill any plans he had for the long life he had left to live. You had no right. Your despicable actions have brought a wave of unending grief and anguish into our family. It has brought upon more hardships and pain than you will ever know."