If you drive a 15-year-old shooter to and from the crime scene, lie to police about it and then later tell detectives the suspect's name and location of the gun, are you guilty of murder?
That question is one a San Joaquin County jury will begin debating today in the case against Lodi resident Amera Addi.
The 12 jurors' decision will make the difference between decades in prison or the 21-year-old's release from custody. She has been jailed since the Oct. 4, 2007, shooting of a Visalia resident Georgina Perez, who happened to be visiting her young grandson in Lodi and was shot because the suspect got the wrong house.
Addi was not the shooter, a point on which attorneys agree.
But the disagreement centers around a part of California law regarding aiding and abetting. Those who do so may be charged with the actual crime even if someone else committed it.
Deputy District Attorney Mark Ott maintains that Addi was deeply involved in the gang life, including dating a documented Lodi gang member, and knew the crime was going to happen.
"This is not someone who is just peripherally involved in it," Ott told jurors.
The prosecutor pointed out gang writing found in Addi's room, references in letters she sent to her boyfriend in jail and her knowledge of the criminal status for various local gang members. Ott noted countless lies Addi told police in the two months after the shooting on Swain Drive.
On the other side is defense attorney Doug Goss' view - that Addi was scared for the safety of her family because she'd gotten mixed up with gang members. She voiced that concern every time she talked to police after the murder, Goss told the jurors, who watched hours of Addi's recorded statements.
"Amera Addi is a witness to this homicide. I will agree that she is a reluctant witness," Goss said during his closing argument. "But I think that you and I, and certainly Detective Eric Bradley (who testified as a gang expert) know that she was justifiably reluctant because of what she knew about (the suspected gunman) - a vicious, apparently, 15-year-old boy willing to fire through a closed window to accomplish his goals without regard for whomever he should hit with those bullets."
By all accounts, the shooter mistakenly targeted the wrong half of a duplex. He'd previously gotten into a dispute with a boy who associated with a rival gang, and who happened to live in the same duplex. That boy's mother broke up the fight, which didn't sit well with the suspect, Ott said.
The News-Sentinel has not named the suspect because he has not been charged in the case and is a minor. Prosecutors say the only evidence they have against him is Addi's word, which is not enough for a conviction.
The shooter never saw the victim, because two shots were fired through closed blinds.
Perez had arrived in Lodi just hours earlier and was drinking coffee with family members. One shot struck her in the back of the neck, and she died almost instantly.
Two months later, Addi led police to a gun that was buried at Lodi Lake.
Had it not been for her statements, Goss argued, police wouldn't have gotten the gun or had a name of a suspect.
And, the defense attorney said, there is no proof that Addi ever knew a shooting was going to happen.
Ott, in turn, argued that there is enough circumstantial evidence to convict Addi, who is charged with murder, shooting into an occupied dwelling and accessory after the fact, as well as enhancements of using a firearm and benefiting a street gang.
Jurors seated before Judge Bernard Garber are expected to begin deliberating today.