Jurors deadlocked 18 years after DHS killing

POSTED: 03:21 PM PDT May 29, 2013    UPDATED: 03:24 PM PDT May 29, 2013 
INDIO, Calif. -

Jurors deadlocked today in the trial of a Desert Hot Springs man accused of taking part in a gang-related shooting that killed a 17-year-old boy and wounded his friend more than 18 years ago.

Ian Davis Hudgins, 36, is accused in a Dec. 21, 1994, shooting that killed Jahi Collins and wounded the teen's friend, Bobby Wilson, while they sat in a car at Wardman Park in Desert Hot Springs.

Jurors had been deliberating since May 22, but failed to come to a unanimous consensus on the charges against Hudgins -- one count each of first-degree murder and attempted murder, with gang activity enhancements and a special circumstance allegation of lying in wait.

The deadlock prompted Riverside County Superior Court Judge Jeffrey L. Gunther to tell jurors he would grant the prosecution's request for more arguments tomorrow, then ask the panelists to continue deliberating. He said jurors indicated they were split 6-6.

The judge said the law allows for more argument from both sides in such cases, and jurors "may well benefit from a night of contemplation."

Riverside County Deputy District Attorney Pete Nolan said in closing arguments last week that gang leader Emilio Avalos and Collins had fought at Palm Springs High School a few weeks earlier and that Collins had "gotten the better" of Avalos. The park was also in the territory of the West Drive Locos, a Desert Hot Springs gang Avalos helped start, according to Nolan.

Avalos was convicted in Collins' murder last year and is on death row for killing 20-year-old Marine Cpl. Henry Lozano in Desert Hot Springs in 2001. His alleged associate, Sergio Padilla, was charged in Collins' death but hasn't been brought to trial, according to court records.

"(Collins and Wilson) were attacked when they were the most vulnerable," Nolan said. "... Jahi Collins never had a chance.

Nolan said that Hudgins admitted he drove around with Avalos and Padilla that night, and Avalos's girlfriend said he told her he committed the crime with Hudgins and Padilla. The prosecutor said Hudgins testified there was "no conversation" about the shooting "but we know he drove them there -- that's why Emilio Avalos gives him credit for participating."

He said Hudgins testified that the three drove to 7-Eleven and had 19 years and a trial's worth of testimony "to formulate his story."

"He had to make something up because he's lying to you. He was in Wardman Park ... He was the person who backed up Emilio and Sergio," according to Nolan.

Hudgins' attorney, Naomi Coady, said the physical evidence showed that the shooters entered the park on foot, not in a vehicle, and that Wilson and a woman who was in the park didn't see a vehicle in the park immediately before the shooting. She said Avalos' girlfriend was correct that Hudgins had driven Padilla and Avalos around that night but that it was earlier in the evening.

She said the prosecution had to prove that her client knew Padilla and Avalos intended to commit the crime.

"There's no evidence at all as to Ian Hudgins' knowledge of what was about to transpire that night," she said, adding that evidence also showed that Hudgins didn't help Padilla and Avalos.

Coady said Hudgins, Avalos and Padilla went to the park to smoke pot, but there were other people there, so they left. Hudgins dropped the other two off and went home, "smoked a joint and watched TV," according to Coady.

Avalos and Padilla returned to the park on foot, snuck up on and shot Collins and Wilson and left on foot. Investigators found footprints in the area, but no tire tracks, she said.

"Physical evidence is the most important thing in this case because it shows Ian Hudgins wasn't the driver at the time of this crime," she said.

She said Hudgins also confessed to other crimes, like committing a burglary when he was 16. Regarding the shooting, she said, "Ian Hudgins didn't know what would happen that night. Nobody told him."