A man was convicted Monday of first-degree murder for the "ambush-style" killings of a pair of USC graduate students from China during a robbery.
Javier Bolden, 22, faces a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole for the April 11, 2012, killings of Ying Wu and Ming Qu as they sat inside a car that was double-parked on a street near the USC campus in the 2700 block of Raymond Avenue.
In his closing argument, Deputy District Attorney Dan Akemon told jurors that "the evidence of guilt in this case is overwhelming."
The 23-year-old graduate students were "helpless victims" inside a BMW that presented an "attractive target," the prosecutor said. He said Bolden and a friend, Bryan Barnes, were "essentially ambushing" the couple and "counting down the seconds of the lives of these victims" as they approached the car from behind while communicating on cell phones.
Bolden was charged with two counts of murder and special circumstance allegations of multiple murders and murder during the commission of a robbery in the deaths.
Barnes pleaded guilty in February to first-degree murder charges. Barnes was spared a death sentence when he was sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole.
Jurors began deliberations in the Bolden case late last week after about one week of testimony. Deputy District Attorney Dan Akemon told jurors that "the evidence of guilt in this case is overwhelming" and that the attackers saw the two students as an "attractive target" as they sat in the car on a rainy spring night.
The two men approached from the rear of the vehicle and communicated on cellphones as they coordinated the ambush, prosecutors said. Barnes fired two rounds into the locked car. Qu, shot once in the head, crawled from the vehicle and across the street in search of help. Wu was shot once in her side and once in her right arm, investigators said.
During opening statements, the jury saw video of a recorded statement during which the Bolden said Wu and Qu seemed like easy targets and heard what prosecutors said were recorded conversations between the defendant and an undercover jail cell informant.
"It was easy, and they'd most likely have more money than somebody that stays in Watts, Compton," Bolden could be seen saying in video recording.
Prosecutors said Bolden confessed to the slayings in recordings with the informant, but defense attorneys claimed the defendant was intimidated in his jail cell and "had to make things up" because he was not at the scene of the shootings.
Prosecutors called the recordings part of a "mountain of evidence" against Bolden, who was arrested in Victorville and brought by helicopter to Los Angeles for questioning.
Bolden was "scared out of his mind" when he was told that he could face the death penalty and provided details about the shooting that were "completely inconsistent'' with testimony and forensic evidence presented during the trial, his attorney said.
Cellular phone records prove Bolden and Barnes were in the area at the time of the killing, prosecutors said. Bolden's attorney, Andrew Goldman told jurors Bolden's phone was in the area, but "that doesn't place him next to the BMW."
The shootings prompted calls for increased safety around the USC campus. Two years later, a 24-year-old USC graduate student was beaten to death as he walked home from an off-campus study group.
Xinran Ji's roommate found his body in his apartment.
Two men, a 17-year-old boy and a 16-year-old girl were charged with capital murder in the Ji slaying. The DA's Office said that after attacking Ji, the suspects went to Dockweiler Beach where three of them were involved in another robbery.
The family of Wu and Qu filed a federal wrongful death lawsuit, which was dismissed.