A second jury convicted an Oklahoma City man Thursday of killing a rival gang member over drugs and territory more than five months after a judge declared a mistrial in the case.
Jurors deliberated for about three hours before finding Corey Dean Sellers, 31, guilty of first-degree murder in the Feb. 26, 2009, shooting death of Neiman Edward Mornes, 21.
Mornes' body was found outside the Summerscape Apartments, 3400 SE 44. Witnesses, including a woman who testified about being shot at, said they heard him arguing with two black males shortly before he was gunned down.
The jury recommended life in prison with the possibility of parole for Sellers, who will be sentenced Oct. 24 by Oklahoma County District Judge Donald L. Deason.
Sellers was acquitted of shooting at a friend of the victim as she drove away after the fatal shooting. He was convicted on a gun possession charge and faces an additional three years in prison.
Prosecutors alleged that Sellers, a high-level member of the Playboy Crips, targeted Mornes, a Sunnyside Bloods member, because he was selling drugs on Playboy turf.
A note written by Sellers while in custody, in which he directs his gang subordinates to lie for him in court, was the key piece of evidence against him, Assistant District Attorney Dan Gridley said.
The note also made reference to killing a key prosecution witness who later testified that Sellers asked him to hide a gun the night of the shootings and returned to retrieve it the next day.
No weapon was ever recovered.
“I'm pleased that justice was served,” Gridley said. “It was a terrible, senseless killing, and it just goes to show what can happen when gangs are involved.”
Defense attorneys argued that nowhere in the note did Sellers admit killing Mornes, and said a physical description of the shooter provided by another witness did not match that of Sellers.
The key prosecution witness, they said, drank the equivalent of 28 beers the night of the fatal shooting and contradicted his testimony throughout the trial.
“Juries have the hardest job in a trial,” defense attorney Johnny Albert said. “We are going to appeal, and I believe Corey Sellers will be back in court with a new trial some day soon.”
In April, Deason declared a mistrial after jurors could not decide whether Sellers killed Mornes. That jury deliberated seven hours and was deadlocked 7-5.