By City News Service
Two men convicted of the execution-style shooting of a medical marijuana clinic employee and the wounding of a security guard after a robbery in Echo Park about 3 1/2 years ago were sentenced Friday to life in prison without parole.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Stephen A. Marcus imposed the terms on Raymond Lemone Easter, 31, and Daniel Hinton, 35, who each maintained that they were innocent of the June 24, 2010, killing of Matthew Butcher and the shooting of Urban Jones Jr.
"There was absolutely no need to kill Matthew Butcher or to shoot Urban Jones in the head," the judge said.
"I am sorry for your loss for it did not have to happen," the judge told the victim's family members. "When we have crimes like this, we usually describe them as brutal and senseless. Of course, any murder is senseless, but this one was so much more."
Easter and Hinton were convicted Nov. 19 of first-degree murder for the 27-year-old man's killing, along with the attempted murder of Jones, who survived being shot in the head after the robbery at the Higher Path Holistic Care Collective in the 1300 block of West Sunset Boulevard, near Dodger Stadium.
Jurors also found true the special circumstance allegation that the murder occurred during the commission of a robbery, along with an allegation that Easter personally discharged a gun during the crime.
Easter returned and shot both victims in the head as they lay face down on the floor following the robbery in which the dispensary's security cameras, two computer towers containing patient records and thousands of dollars in cash and marijuana were taken, according to authorities.
Just before being sentenced, the two contended that they had been wrongly convicted.
"I stand in front of you as an innocent man," Easter said, with the judge retorting that the "evidence in this case seemed to be overwhelming to Mr. Easter's guilt."
"We are innocent," Hinton said, while noting that he extended his sympathy to the victims and their families.
Easter and Hinton -- who were both customers at the clinic -- were arrested later that year, authorities said.
Jones, who walks with a cane as a result of the shooting he survived, called it a "cold-blooded, calculated killing." He said outside court that he feels "blessed" to still be alive.
Julie Butcher, who is the regional director of the Inland Area for Service Employees International Union 721, called her son "a good man" who worked at Higher Path "because he believed in the healing benefits of marijuana."
"Matt Butcher was 5'8" and weighed 135 pounds, dripping. He'd give you the shirt off his back. There was no reason to kill him, there was no need to kill him. It was senseless," the victim's mother said. "And so, in the name of justice, we ask that these murderers never again walk among us, that they never ever get the chance to kill another mother's son."
She said she misses her son every day.
After the hearing, Julie Butcher said she was thankful that "the jury heard everything."
"If there was any doubt in my mind that these were not the guys, we would have been advocating for more investigation," she said.