Prosecutors allege that Johnson lured Miller to an Anaheim alley, where another gang member shot Miller in the back of the head with a .9 mm pistol.
Tuesday’s testimony at Orange County Superior Court in Santa Ana was a preview of what jurors could expect to hear during the next phase of the trial, if they return with a guilty verdict.
Deputy Dist. Atty. Ebrahim Baytieh spent much of the day questioning retired Costa Mesa police Lt. Clay Epperson, who led the department’s Special Enforcement Detail and worked on its gang unit in the mid-1990s.
Epperson claimed that Johnson’s role in the killing — which the defense does not deny and which Johnson admitted to through testimony in a separate trial — accelerated Johnson’s rise in the gang’s hierarchy.
In the gang world, the more violent you are and the more crimes you commit is a path to power within the group, Epperson testified. Johnson, who had just transitioned into the Public Enemy Number One gang from the Nazi Low Riders gang, was trying to move up in the ranks, he said.
The central theme of Johnson’s new gang, Epperson testified, is “self-serving thuggery and violence.”
Pressing the prosecution’s case, Baytieh also played recorded phone conversations between Johnson and friends, while Johnson was in prison, to show that the defendant relished his “boogie man” reputation spun in the media. After the trial adjourned for the day, Baytieh called Johnson a cold-blooded killer.