MERCED — A 23-year-old man accused in the August shooting of an employee at a Merced auto parts store was convicted by a jury Thursday.
Jurors convicted James Ray Mooney of felony attempted murder, assault with a firearm and being a felon in possession of a gun. Mooney was found not guilty of attempted robbery. He's scheduled to be sentenced June 20 and faces 36 years to life in prison.
The shooting was reported just after 10 p.m. Aug. 23 at O'Reilly Auto Parts, 40 W. 16th St. Witnesses said the shooter went inside and fired once, striking the employee in the abdomen. The gunman then ran, according to Merced police.
Deputy District Attorney Matthew Serratto, the prosecutor in the case, said that after Mooney entered the business with the gun, the clerk thought he was joking and put his hands up to go along with what he thought was a prank.
But Mooney shot the clerk and fled without taking anything from the store.
After the shooting, Mooney was taken into custody by Merced police after the victim and witnesses identified him.
The store's video surveillance camera happened to be broken the day of the shooting. Still, the witness testimony against Mooney was strong enough for the prosecution to obtain a conviction. "I think the evidence against Mr. Mooney was pretty powerful," Serratto said. "(The victim) was able to identify him. Other store clerks described somebody just like him. Another store clerk came into court and said 'This is the guy.' "
Deputy Public Defender Paul Lyon, Mooney's attorney, said though his client was outside the store with a group of people prior to shooting, he had left before the incident happened.
Lyon called forensic expert Robert Shomer to testify. Shomer said the photo lineup that was used to identify Mooney as a suspect was faulty and that the in-court identification by the victim of Mooney was problematic.
Mooney will attempt to appeal the verdict, Lyon said.
Jurors deliberated for a day and a half before reaching a decision Thursday.
Mooney is a convicted felon who's previously been to prison for receiving stolen property, battery and theft, Serratto said.
City Editor Victor A. Patton can be reached at (209) 385-2431 or firstname.lastname@example.org.