NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. (AP) — A federal jury in Niagara Falls convicted a father and son of all charges in the shooting death of up-and-coming Buffalo rapper Kevin O. Turner. Jurors found Lavon Parks, 32, and his father, James C. Parks, 58, guilty of discharging a firearm causing death, as well as other narcotics and firearm charges. The shooting took place in January 2018 in Niagara Falls.
According to prosecutors, Lavon Parks fired six shots, killing Turner as he exited a residence in Niagara Falls. Prosecutors allege that Parks targeted Turner, a rival drug dealer, due to concerns about his drug territory. They also claimed that Lavon and James Parks were engaged in a conspiracy to sell cocaine in the Niagara Falls and Buffalo areas.
During the trial, prosecutors presented video evidence showing the Parks driving around the neighborhood shortly before Turner was killed. They also alleged that two crack users, who sold heroin for Lavon Parks, texted him when Turner was at their apartment building, suggesting a setup to inform Parks of Turner’s whereabouts. Defense attorney Cheryl Meyers Buth argued that Lavon Parks was not a major drug dealer and that Turner posed no threat to any other drug dealer in the area.
The case involved a total of seven defendants accused of engaging in the cocaine conspiracy, with Lavon and James Parks facing the most serious charges. The trial lasted 15 days, during which jurors heard from 43 government witnesses and two defense witnesses. Despite the lack of eyewitnesses to the shooting and absence of DNA evidence on the firearm used, the jury returned guilty verdicts.
The guilty verdicts resulted in the immediate arrest of Lavon and James Parks, with sentencing scheduled for June. The case has brought attention to the ongoing tensions between prosecutors and defense attorneys over the disclosure of evidence, prompting U.S. District Judge Lawrence Vilardo to question the federal government’s discovery practices. Vilardo expressed concerns over the delayed disclosure of evidence to the defense, leading to the disallowance of some of the government’s evidence during the trial.
The conviction of the Parks father and son marks a significant development in the case, shedding light on the complexities of drug-related violence and the legal challenges involved in prosecuting such cases. The sentencing in June will further determine the impact of the verdict on the families and communities affected by the tragic incident.