A man accused of killing his girlfriend in her South Los Angeles apartment pleaded not guilty Thursday to an amended criminal complaint that added a special circumstance allegation to the murder charge he was already facing — a departure from District Attorney George Gascón’s policy eschewing such enhancements.
Darryl Lamar Collins (51), of Baldwin Park is due back in court on July 21. A date will be set to hear if enough evidence exists to allow him to stand trial.
Collins is accused of murdering Fatima Johnson, 53, his girlfriend. Fatima was found by her daughters bound, gagged, wrapped in a blanket in her apartment at 7600 block South Western Avenue.
Her family called paramedics who declared her dead on the spot.
Collins was accused of murder, but there were only allegations that Collins had been convicted in two previous cases — one for attempted theft in 1992 and one for double murder in 1998. Prosecutors claim that Collins was paroled in the double-murder case about one year prior to his alleged murder of Johnson.
The case was one of several cited by organizers of a recall effort against Gascón, who announced when he took office that he would no longer file special-circumstance allegations that can lead to no-parole prison terms or death sentences. Critics claimed that Collins would still be eligible to receive eventual parole if convicted, as there was no such allegation.
However, the District Attorney’s Office has announced that Collins’ case was amended by prosecutors after an Alternative Charging Evaluation Committee reviewed it. This included a special circumstance allegation about Collins’ previous conviction for first-degree Murder.
Collins now faces a possible sentence to life imprisonment without parole if the allegation is added.
“An internal committee of experienced attorneys with diverse backgrounds has reviewed the facts of this case and determined that, in this extremely rare instance, a policy deviation was warranted and approved the filing of a special circumstance allegation,” Gascón said in a statement announcing the move. “The facts of this case are extraordinary and demanded further review based on our charging policies.”
Organizers of the effort to recall Gascón announced Wednesday they have surpassed the 566,857 petition signatures needed to force a recall vote.
The signature collection effort will continue. Organisers plan to collect as many as 700,000. By the July 6 deadline organizers hope to have enough signatures to make sure the petitions have the required number.