Only On Radar: JESSE JAMES HOLLYWOOD'S made-for-Hollywood Murder Trial Is Underway

May 15 2009, Published 5:01 a.m. ET

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Nine years since the murder of 15-year-old Nicholas Markowitz, his accused killer Jesse James Hollywood is finally facing a jury -- and a possible death sentence -- in Santa Barbara, CA.  Hollywood's brazen and bizarre story became the basis for the 2007 Justin Timberlake movie Alpha Dog.  Prosecutors believe Hollywood and several of his middle-class central California friends kidnapped Nick as a way to pressure his half-brother Ben Markowitz into paying a $1200 drug debt. 

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The plan failed, says the prosecution.  After several days, Hollywood ordered his pal Ryan Hoyt to "take care of the problem, i.e. that he was to kill Nicholas," Santa Barbara County Deputy D.A. Joshua Lynn wrote in court documents.  Hoyt has since been found guilty of the murder -- he shot Nick nine times -- and sentenced  to death.  Prosecutors believe Hollywood is equally guilty of kidnap and  murder for having ordered the crimes.


Hollywood, now 26, fled Santa Barbara immediately after Nick's body was  discovered in a shallow grave, and spent the next several years on the lam,  in Las Vegas and Colorado, before crossing the border into Canada and  eventually going to South America.  He was captured in Brazil and extradited back to California.

His defense has always maintained he had nothing to do with the murder, that Hoyt acted on his own.  Attorney James Blatt later tried to stop the release of Alpha Dog, claiming it would prejudice potential jurors.  He also fought to have the case moved to another jurisdiction.  He was unsuccessful on both counts, and with jury selection now complete, the trial got underway May 15. "It is a long time coming, Leah Goyanes, victim Nick Markowitz's half-sister told exclusively.  "We just hope justice will prevail."

(Photo: AP Images)



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