One of three people charged with murdering actor MERLIN SANTANA in 2002 has been sentenced to 70 years to life in prison.

LOS ANGELES SUPERIOR COURT judge LARRY P FIDLER - who called the killing of Santana "truly senseless" - also ordered 21-year-old DAMIEN ANDRE GATES to serve a consecutive life prison term with the possibility of parole.

Gates was convicted of first-degree murder on 5 February (04) for the 9 November, 2002, slaying of the former star of THE STEVE HARVEY SHOW. He also was found guilty of attempted murder involving a man who was in a car with the 26-year-old actor.

Santana was shot in the head as he and a friend were leaving another man's home in Los Angeles.

BRANDON DOUGLAS BYNES, 25, pleaded guilty on 26 January (04) to voluntary manslaughter and assault with a deadly weapon, as jury selection was set to get under way in Gates' trial.

He is awaiting sentencing on 11 March (04) and is expected to receive a 23-year prison term.

Jury selection is under way in the trial of MONIQUE KING, now 17, who is also charged in Santana's slaying. She was 15 at the time, but was found unfit to be tried as a juvenile.

03/03/2004 09:14