A state appeals court panel upheld the conviction of a former Lake Elsinore resident, who was found guilty of first-degree murder for stabbing his cousin 28 times in a Long Beach apartment building in 2014.
The panel of three justices from California’s 2nd District Court of Appeal rejected the defense’s claim that the trial court made the wrong decision regarding the admission of evidence portraying Bryan Underwood having an affair with the cousin’s girlfriend.
Underwood was convicted in May of last year of murdering 27-year-old Ahkeem Johnson.
In 2015, Jurors also found true the allegation that he used a dangerous weapon—a knife—during the deadly act.
According to police, on April 8, 2014, officers found Johnson dead at his apartment with 28 stab wounds to his neck, back and torso after neighbors reported strange noises from his home and that someone was stabbed.
A witness also told authorities they saw Underwood try to jump the back fence of the complex after the stabbing, said Deputy District Attorney Kelly Kelley, who prosecuted the case.
Long Beach police also testified that when Underwood was arrested his clothing was covered in blood, he was wearing a bloody glove, and he dropped two large bloody knives when officers approached, according to the district attorney’s office.
The prosecution theorized that Johnson’s decision to tell Underwood’s wife of Underwood’s affair with Johnson’s girlfriend motivated the murder. Underwood’s wife had initially said learning this information resulted in her and her husband’s separation, but later said in court that the disclosure had resulted in marital problems.
The panel rejected Underwood’s allegation that the inclusion of such evidence was inflammatory.
“Testimony about the affair was far less inflammatory than the circumstances of the crime: appellant armed himself with a knife and gloves, entered the apartment, and stabbed Ahkeem 28 times while his children (ages 1 and 3) slept in the next room,'' the ruling read. “The trial court concluded that the affair was relevant and admissible to show motive.''
The panel also rejected the trial court made erred in denying Underwood his request to defend himself in July of 2016, when he was sentenced to 26 years in prison.
The Long Beach Police Department investigated the case.
City News Service contributed to this report.