TACOMA - A Pierce County jury Monday acquitted Rickey Hinton of helping his half brother Maurice Clemmons escape capture after Clemmons gunned down four Lakewood police officers last year.
The jury also found an associate of Clemmons, Douglas Davis, not guilty of helping the killer in the hours after the massacre at a Parkland coffee shop.
Jurors convicted Davis, 23, of illegally possessing a gun and possessing a stolen firearm in the case. They also found 21-year-old Eddie Davis, no relation to Douglas Davis, and Letrecia Nelson, 53, guilty of rendering criminal assistance for helping Clemmons. Eddie Davis and Nelson also were convicted of weapons violations.
The jury found their crimes worse than normal, which qualifies them for sentences outside the standard range.
Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist said his office would seek the maximum sentences allowed at a Jan. 14 hearing.
Douglas Davis and Eddie Davis, Clemmons’ cousin, both face up to 20 years. Nelson, Clemmons’ aunt, faces up to 15 years.
Hinton, who has been jailed since his arrest just more than a year ago, was released Monday about 7:45 p.m.
His attorney, Philip Thornton, said Hinton, 48, was greatly relieved by the verdict.
“He’s very happy,” Thornton said. “He just wants to get back home to his family.”
Nelson wiped at tears after the verdicts were announced. The Davises sat grim-faced.
The four were arrested within days of the shootings and charged with multiple counts each of first-degree rendering criminal assistance. Nelson and the Davises also were charged with weapons violations for allegedly possessing a pistol Clemmons stole from officer Greg Richards and used to kill him.
The jury, which heard nearly a month of testimony, deliberated over three days before coming in with its verdict about 4 p.m.
Intent was the key factor in the jury’s decision-making, presiding juror Bonnie Butler said.
Jurors felt prosecutors did not put on enough evidence to show that Hinton and Douglas Davis intended to help Clemmons escape capture on Nov. 29, 2009.
Prosecutors had to prove the defendants knew Clemmons, 37, was wanted for aggravated first-degree murder and provided aid to help him elude capture.
Prosecutors alleged both men knew Clemmons had killed Sgt. Mark Renninger, 39; and officers Tina Griswold, 40; Ronald Owens, 37; and Richards, 42; and intended to aid his escape.
Hinton gave car keys to Eddie Davis that morning, deleted Clemmons’ cell phone number from his own phone and later lied to police. Prosecutors said Eddie Davis used the keys to start a car he later used to drive Clemmons out of Tacoma.
Hinton’s lies and destruction of the cell phone records delayed Clemmons’ capture, deputy prosecutors Kevin McCann and Stephen Penner argued during trial.
Hinton’s attorney, Philip Thornton, countered that his client was trying to get his brother, whose mental health was deteriorating, out of his life. Prosecutors did not prove Hinton knew what Clemmons had done when he provided the keys, Thornton said.
Hinton’s lies and deleting the cell phone records didn’t really hinder police, added Thornton, who urged the jury to take a courageous stand and acquit his client.
Prosecutors alleged Douglas Davis traveled with Clemmons from Tacoma to a house in Pacific after the shootings and may have provided him with medical aid once there.
Douglas Davis’ attorney, Kent Underwood, argued his client was afraid of Clemmons, who maintained control over Davis’ well-being and had boasted he was Jesus Christ.
In the end, there were too many questions about Hinton’s and Douglas Davis’ intentions to convict them, Butler said. Both might have been acting from self-preservation, she said.
“We were challenged with the idea of intent,” Butler said.
The jury had no such qualms about Eddie Davis or Letrecia Nelson, the presiding juror said.
Both lied repeatedly to police – even after Clemmons was killed Dec. 1 by a Seattle police officer – and Eddie Davis at one point told detectives he did not want Clemmons to get caught, Butler said.
“Their own words came back to haunt them,” she said.
Prosecutors alleged Davis drove Clemmons out of Tacoma, lied to police and might have helped bandage him. Nelson lied to police and might have destroyed evidence by cleaning up the killer’s blood from her carpet, they argued.
Lindquist said he was glad McCann and Penner got three convictions.
“The important thing is three of these four defendants have been held accountable,” Lindquist said. “Based on experience, the jury may have taken into account Hinton’s relationship as a half brother to Maurice Clemmons.”
All told, five people accused of helping either Clemmons or his suspected getaway driver have been convicted, including the killer’s sister, 35-year-old LaTanya Clemmons, and associate, Quiana Williams, 27. Both are serving five-year terms.
Lakewood Police Chief Bret Farrar, who attended Monday’s verdict, declined to comment. “I’m not going to comment until the last trial is over. We’ve got one more,” Farrar said.
Dorcus Allen, the suspected getaway driver, is charged as an accomplice with four counts of aggravated first-degree murder in the officers’ deaths. He is scheduled to go to trial next year.
Lindquist is evaluating whether to seek the death penalty against Allen, 39, who’s pleaded not guilty.
Griswold’s brother Tom DeLong also left court without comment. He and his wife appeared to be the only members of the officers’ families in court for the verdict.
Clemmons’ cousin and Nelson’s daughter, Cicely Clemmons, was a key prosecution witness in the case.
She was home with her mother when Clemmons and the Davises showed up at the Pacific house about an hour after the shootings.
Cicely Clemmons provided testimony that implicated both Davises and Nelson. She also implicated herself, saying she gave her cousin cash and access to her car that day.
She escaped prosecution in exchange for her testimony.Lindquist said he decided not to prosecute Cicely Clemmons because she was forthcoming – even though she lied to police on at least two occasions – and provided timely information.
“It was critical information at a critical time,” he said.
Adam Lynn: 253-597-8644 firstname.lastname@example.org