Woman Convicted in Hate-Crime Death

AP/November 11, 1999

Los Angeles -- A woman who beat a homeless black man and allegedly gouged his eyes with a metal table leg in a hate-crime attack was convicted Wednesday of involuntary manslaughter.

The Superior Court jury deliberated six days over the charge of first-degree murder against Jessica Colwell, 20, before agreeing on the lesser charge. It carries a possible prison sentence of nine years.

Two co-defendants were convicted last week of first-degree murder by two juries that heard the case concurrently.

Upon hearing the verdict, Colwell threw back her head and sobbed, then began to laugh and smile.

Jury foreman Keith Desallas said panelists struggled with whether Milton Walker Jr. was already dead when Colwell struck him twice on the head.

White supremacists Ritch Bryant, 20, Randall Lee Rojas, 24, and Colwell killed Walker behind a McDonald's restaurant in Lancaster on Nov. 25, 1995, according to prosecutors. Bryant hoped the attack would earn him a lightning bolt tattoo from the Nazi Low Riders, a Mojave Desert supremacist gang.

Juries in all three cases found that the attack was a racially motivated hate crime.

Judge Lance Ito will hand down sentences of the two men on Nov. 22, with Colwell's sentencing set for Nov. 24. Both men could receive life in prison without possibility of parole.


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