Sports News

Deliberations begin in trial of ex-NFL player charged with four murders

LANCASTER, Calif. (Reuters) - A Los Angeles County jury began deliberations on Wednesday in the murder retrial of former Oakland Raiders defensive end Anthony Wayne Smith, charged with killing four Southern California men over the course of nearly a decade.

The 48-year-old onetime National Football League star, whose original trial in one of the slayings ended in a hung jury, faces a maximum sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole if convicted.

Smith is charged with four counts of first-degree murder, including the 2008 shooting death for which he originally stood accused, as well as allegations that include torture and kidnapping of three other victims - two in 1999 and one in 2001.

The case was turned over to jurors following closing arguments in which the defense asserted a lack of DNA and other physical evidence linking Smith to the slayings and prosecutors countered that circumstantial evidence in the case was overwhelming.

They pointed to numerous items seized from Smith’s apartment, including plastic zip ties and rope matching restraints used on the victims; phony police identification cards and uniforms believed to have been used in some of the abductions; and several books about committing crimes.

The defendant, wearing a black jacket and white pants and sitting quietly beside his attorney on Wednesday, did not take the witness stand in his own defense during the three-week-plus trial. He has remained in custody without bail since his arrest in 2011.

Smith, a first-round 1990 draft pick of the Raiders, then based in Los Angeles, and an 11th pick overall for the NFL that year, played all seven seasons of his pro career for the Raiders, first in Los Angeles and then in Oakland.

He was charged in 2011 with two other men in connection with the slaying of an associate, Maurilio Ponce, found shot to death on a roadside in October 2008.

The defense acknowledged Smith and Ponce had been involved in a cargo theft together and that Smith was seen driving the victim’s car after he was slain but insisted the defendant had nothing to do with Ponce’s murder.

A jury deadlocked 8-4 in favor of a guilty verdict against Smith, leading to a mistrial.

A subsequent felony complaint charged Smith with the November 1999 slayings of brothers Kevin and Ricky Nettles, kidnapped from a car wash and found fatally shot the next day, and the June 2001 beating and stabbing death of Dennis Henderson.

Editing by Steve Gorman and Lisa Shumaker