Anthony Smith, Former Raiders 1st-Round Pick, Convicted on 3 Counts of Murder

Former Oakland Raiders defensive end Anthony Wayne Smith, accused of killing four Southern California men over the course of a decade, was convicted on Thursday of three murders, with a mistrial was declared for a fourth count.

The 48-year-old onetime National Football League star, whose original 2012 trial likewise ended in a hung jury over the same slaying, faces a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.

The defendant, dressed in white slacks and shirt and a dark jacket, leaned forward in his chair watching as the clerk read the verdict in a Los Angeles County Superior Court packed with victims’ relatives.

Alicia Tribble, a sister-in-law of two of the victims, sobbed and muttered “Thank God” as Smith was pronounced guilty on three counts of first-degree murder, along with special allegations of kidnapping and torture that carry the maximum prison term.

Afterward, deputies handcuffed the defendant and led him out of the courtroom.

Defence lawyer Michael Evans said he would likely file a motion to set aside the guilty verdicts, saying jurors “didn’t follow the law and were confused how the law applies.”

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Smith’s prosecution stands as one of the most serious criminal cases brought against a string of NFL veterans in recent years, the majority of them on charges of domestic violence and sexual assault.

Aaron Hernandez, formerly of the New England Patriots, is serving a life sentence after a jury this year found him guilty of murdering semi-professional football player Olin Lloyd in an industrial park in 2013.

Hernandez still faces charges of killing two men outside a Boston nightclub in 2012. Former NFL running back Lawrence Phillips, serving time in a California prison for domestic violence and vehicle theft, was charged in September with murder in the strangling death of his cellmate.

Smith, a first-round 1990 draft pick of the Raiders, and an 11th pick overall for the NFL that year, played all seven seasons of his pro career for the Raiders, first in Los Angeles and then in Oakland.

Two murder convictions stem from the November 1999 slayings of brothers Kevin and Ricky Nettles, who prosecutors said were abducted from a car wash by Smith posing as a police officer and were found fatally shot the next day. The third involved the June 2001 beating and stabbing death of Dennis Henderson.

In court prosecutors never offered theories for motives behind the killings.

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“Justice will be served,” Tribble said after Thursday’s proceedings. “We won’t bring them back, but at least the person who is responsible will pay for what he has done.”

The jury deadlocked 9-3 in favor of a guilty verdict on a fourth count of murder in the October 2008 killing of Smith’s associate Maurilio Ponce, who was found shot to death on a roadside. Because the panel failed to reach the unanimous decision required for a verdict in criminal cases, the judge declared a mistrial for that count.

A separate jury in 2012 split 8-4 in favor of a guilty verdict in the Ponce death, leading to a first mistrial. Two co-defendants tried with Smith were found guilty, but their convictions were reversed on appeal.

Prosecutors said they would decide by Dec. 21, the date set for Smith’s sentencing, whether to retry him again in that case.