Jury Rejects `Wrong Guy' Theory And Convicts North Bend Man -- 18- Year-Old Found Guilty Of Murder

EVERETT - Rejecting an argument that prosecutors cut a deal with the wrong guy, jurors yesterday convicted an 18-year-old North Bend man of first-degree murder for the shooting of a Burien teenager.

Snohomish County Superior Court jurors deliberated only 3 1/2 hours before returning a guilty verdict against John Lathon for the shooting of 16-year-old Anthony Genzale.

The Feb. 11 shooting in a South Everett field near the Boeing plant ended a crime spree in which Genzale, Lathon and two other teenagers had driven around the Seattle area in a stolen car while Genzale committed armed robberies.

The motive for the shooting was never clearly established; possibilities included a desire for Genzale's gun or his $60 in robbery proceeds, or personal friction.

Lathon and defense attorney Pete Mazzone argued that he never pulled the trigger. Instead, they described a sequence of events in which Lathon's 20-year-old stepbrother, Philip Lathon, accidentally shot Genzale in the neck and then panicked. The fourth youth, 16-year-old Frederick Moore of Snoqualmie, then solved the problem by taking the gun and killing Genzale with a shot to his right eye, they said.

But Moore and the elder Lathon brother both testified that John Lathon performed the murder.

Moore agreed to testify as part of a plea-bargain agreement with prosecutors, in which his charges were reduced to second-degree murder and first-degree robbery.

Moore is expected to be sentenced to 17 years in prison. A conviction of first-degree murder with a gun carries a minimum sentence of 25 years.

"Now if that's not motive, I'm Donald Duck," Mazzone told jurors. The defense attorney structured much of his closing argument around the theme, "When the state makes deals, hoods turn into saints."

Deputy Prosecutor Paul Stern, in turn, told jurors: "Prosecutors only fear one thing: putting the wrong people in prison."

Jurors also heard conflicting testimony from two other witnesses. A man who shared a cell with John Lathon for three days said Lathon admitted shooting Genzale. But an acquaintance of Moore's testified that Moore claimed to have shot Genzale.

At the time of the shooting, John Lathon was 17. Mazzone told jurors the youths' original plan called for Lathon to take the rap for his brother, because as a minor he would get much less prison time. Instead, he was charged as an adult.

Stern blew a hole in Mazzone's case on Thursday, when he produced a letter John Lathon wrote to his older brother, urging him to lie on the witness stand by saying he didn't see anything.

But the two-page, handwritten letter never stated who did the shooting.