A California appeals court affirmed the first degree murder conviction Thursday of a security guard and businessman sentenced to life in prison for murdering a woman in Hollywood over a $1,700 dispute.
Carrie Melvin was 30-years-old when she was ambushed and killed with a single blast from a 12-gauge shotgun. She was attacked as she walked with her boyfriend near Sunset Boulevard in July 2015.
Ezeoma Chigozie Obioha, 33, unsuccessfully argued that the murder trial was unfair because he claimed a police photo lineup was suggestive, an expert witness should have been blocked from testifying, and he wasn't allowed to accuse a third party of committing the murder while presenting his defense.
In court filings Obioha said those issues, combined with an ineffective defense lawyer, made the conviction, "fundamentally unfair."
The 2nd District Court of Appeal disagreed, and said in its unpublished opinion that the issues Obioha raised do not warrant a reversal. Jurors also found Obioha guilty of the special circumstance allegation of murder for financial gain, and an allegation that he personally and intentionally discharged a shotgun.
At a hearing in 2016 an LAPD detective testified that Obioha had been sent a notice to appear at a July 27, 2015 settlement conference at a state labor board, after Melvin said she wasn’t paid for marketing work.
The notice was mailed days before the murder, and a document from the state labor board was on Melvin's kitchen counter, the detective testified.
The woman's boyfriend identified Obioha as the gunman when he was shown a "six-pack" of photos several weeks after the shooting, another detective said.
"There's nothing to celebrate here," the victim's father, Bernard Melvin, said outside court after the jury’s verdict. "I lost my daughter. A young man is going to spend the rest of his life in prison."