Quochuy "Tony" Tran was convicted of first-degree murder and using a gun on June 28 for killing Ichinkhorloo "Iko" Bayarsaikhan during an attempted robbery at Washington Park at 799 Central Ave. in Alameda at about 10 p.m. on Oct. 31, 2007.
Tran, who is now 19, was only 16 at the time of the shooting. His attorney, Anne Beles, said his lengthy sentence is "absurd" and "contrary to what justice should be in America."
Beles said she thinks Tran should only have been prosecuted as a juvenile, not as an adult, and that by putting him in prison for the rest of his life, society is saying "there is no hope for rehabilitation" for juveniles who commit serious crimes.
But prosecutor Tim Wellman said the sad part of the case is not that Tran faces a long sentence but that Iko was killed at such a young age.
"The tragedy here is that Iko had her whole life in front of her and is now dead," Wellman said.
Alameda County Superior Court Judge Carrie Panetta said deterring other juveniles to commit serious crimes is an important consideration.
"The deterrence effect is a legitimate goal when individuals think they will be treated differently because of their age when they commit violent crimes," Panetta said.
Tran sobbed uncontrollably when the jury's verdict was announced after only a few hours of deliberation on June 28, but was calm in court today and smiled and blew a kiss at his family when deputies escorted him from court at the end of his hearing.
Wellman told jurors in his closing argument that Iko, who had moved from her native Mongolia to the U.S. three years before her death and was a junior at Alameda High School, was with a group of nine friends who were hanging out in the park when they were approached by Tran and a group of five of his friends.
Tran and his friends had met at Lincoln Recreation Center in Oakland earlier in the evening and decided to go to Alameda to commit a robbery, according to Wellman.
Wellman said one of Tran's friends was carrying a .22-caliber rifle. The friend gave the rifle to another member of their group, who fired four warning shots into the air during the attempted robbery.
But some of Iko's friends thought the gun wasn't real because it didn't make a loud sound, so they walked toward Tran and his friends, Wellman said.
He said Tran then grabbed the gun and fired a single shot that killed Iko.
Iko screamed and fell to the ground after she was shot, he said.
The bullet entered her back and went through her left lung and heart, according to Wellman. She was pronounced dead at Highland Hospital in Oakland about an hour after the shooting.
Tran and five of his friends were arrested after the shooting, and they were all charged with murder in connection with the shooting due to California's felony murder rule, Wellman said.
Under that rule, a defendant can be convicted of murder -- even if the individual didn't personally kill anyone - if he participates in a felony, such as armed robbery, in which someone is killed.
The other five defendants were convicted of murder in juvenile court and can't be held past the age of 25. Tran was the only who was prosecuted as an adult, and the other five youths testified in his trial.
Beles asked jurors to find Tran not guilty, saying it's unclear who fired the shot that killed Iko.
Beles said today that the fatal shooting "was a senseless killing that shouldn't have happened but it was the act of a child, not a callous criminal."
Beles said Tran "fired the gun when he saw people coming at him."
But Panetta said Iko "was particularly vulnerable because she had her back turned to him" when she was shot.
Panetta said she was troubled that he told a probation officer after he was convicted that he denied any responsibility for Iko's death, saying "a girl got killed and I got blamed for it" and "whoever did it should man up" and confess.
The judge said Tran's denial is contrary to all the evidence in the case, as all of the witnesses said he participated in the crime.
After Tran was sentenced, Iko's mother, Uranchimeg Khishigdorg, said she thinks that Tran deserves his long sentence and thanked the jury, Wellman and Panetta for the way they handled the case.