Actor Michael Jace was convicted of second-degree murder Tuesday for gunning down his wife in front of their two young children in an affluent neighborhood of Los Angeles.
Jurors took three hours to reach the verdict, meaning they accepted April Jace’s killing was not premeditated, but believed it to be more serious than voluntary manslaughter.
The 53-year-old American, famous for his part in police drama “The Shield” and big-screen roles including in “Forrest Gump,” faces up to 40 years in jail when he is sentenced on June 10.
Deputy district attorney Tannaz Mokayef told jurors in her summing up on Friday that Jace was “obsessed” with his wife, who had been trying to leave him amid his allegations that she had been unfaithful.
Jace’s defense team accepted that he had shot his wife in the back and twice in her legs on May 19, 2014, but maintained he was guilty only of voluntary manslaughter, sometimes called a “crime of passion.”
“He snapped. If you find there was something that provoked this man… and it created some kind of passion in him, that’s manslaughter,” his attorney Jamon Hicks told jurors.
The couple’s 10-year-old son Nehemiah, testified that he had seen his father bring his mother — a keep-fit enthusiast — into the hallway of their home in the Hyde Park area, where she fell down.
“Then my dad said, ‘If you like running, run to heaven,’ and then he shot her,” the boy told the jury.
In a recorded interview played in court, Jace told police he was holding the gun when his wife returned home from a baseball game with their sons.
She lunged at him, he said, and he had intended “just (to) shoot her in the leg” and not kill her, adding that he had been drinking.
The couple had exchanged 164 text messages on the day of the shooting, the court was told, including one in which Jace’s wife of nine years said she was “afraid to come home.”
The actor, who split from his previous wife, Jennifer Bitterman, in 2002, filed for bankruptcy in 2011, citing debts of more than $500,000. Neighbors reported he had struggled to find work since the end of “The Shield.”
In addition to “Forrest Gump,” Jace appeared in “Boogie Nights” and “Planet of the Apes.”