The murder conviction for the 61-year-old man who fatally stabbed another during a road rage dispute, was upheld by an appeals court panel on Tuesday.
Rickey Vernon Smith faces 16 years to life in state prison for the Nov.27, 2018 murder of 36-year-old Horace Williams Jr. during a road rage dispute in the South Bay.
Williams was a father of five at the time.
The jury found Smith not guilty of first-degree murder but was convicted of second-degree murder last fall, in addition to an allegation of using a knife in the killing.
According to the testimony, both drivers got into an argument, which continued while they traveled down Southern California roadways. Williams threw a soda cup at Smith's pickup truck, and Smith rammed Williams' minivan.
Deputy District Attorney Makenzie Harvey said that after cutting Williams off for the final time, Smith proceeded to exit his truck and punch William through the driver's side window.
Prosecutors said Smith walked away, pulled out a knife from a holster strapped to his hip, walked back to the minivan, and stabbed Williams multiple times, with the fatal blow puncturing Williams' heart.
Williams also sustained stab wounds to his arms and legs.
According to the prosecution, witnesses reported seeing Williams get out of his van and collapse in the roadway, bleeding heavily. Paramedics brought Williams to Scripps Mercy Hospital in San Diego, where he later passed.
Defense attorney Brian Watkins said Williams was the aggressor and that he punched Smith twice in the face when Smith approached his window. Only after Williams began reaching for something near the center console did Smith produce his knife "as a last resort," Watkins said.
The 911 call Smith made shortly after the stabbing was played to jurors. In the call, Smith said Williams cut him off and threw a drink at his truck.
Smith told the dispatcher that he followed William to understand why he threw the soda cup, but admitted to punching and stabbing Williams. He said Williams instigated the altercation by punching, and Smith admitted to stabbing Williams in self-defense”.