The older sister of a Berkeley man who could face the death penalty if found guilty of two fatal shootings in 2013 testified on his behalf Monday, but her testimony may have done more harm than good.
Chastity Williams, sister of Darnell Williams Jr., told the jury why she instructed her son — struck by a fragment from a bullet he said his uncle fired — not to talk to police about what he’d seen. She also disputed her son’s story that he would get “a whuppin” if he didn’t keep quiet.
“He fibs,” she said of her son, who was 7 at the time of shooting. As to why she told him not to speak with police, she said: “As a parent, I wanted to figure out what was going on first before Elliot spoke to anyone. He’s a kid. Why would I want to put my child through that?”
On cross-examination, however, Williams admitted to having told police her son was “very accurate.” She repeatedly changed her story and tried to explain inconsistencies in her statements. Direct examination, by the defense, lasted less than 15 minutes. Prosecutor John Brouhard then questioned her for nearly two hours on cross-examination.
Williams said her son made up the threat of a beating to try to stop authorities from questioning him after the Sept. 8, 2013, shooting that killed 22-year-old Anthony “Tone” Medearis III in West Berkeley. Police arrested Darnell Williams, then 22, near the scene. The two young men were both familiar faces in what some who live in the area call “the Waterfront” neighborhood and hung out with the same friends.
Defense attorney Darryl Billups, who called Chastity Williams, 27, to the stand, asked if she had been trying to protect her brother when she told her son not to speak with police. She said that had not been her goal.
When she walked up to the stand Monday morning, Williams gave a little wave and smile to her younger brother as he sat at the defense table. Seeing the friendly face was likely a change for the defendant, who has not had any apparent supporters in the courtroom over the past month.
Chastity Williams described, as Billups questioned her, dropping off her son and brother at “Meechie’s house” — at Camelia and Eighth streets — the day of the Medearis shooting. She went back home to Delaware Street and was taking a nap later in the day when her son woke her up with a bandage on his face. She looked underneath and saw what she later realized was a bullet fragment.
After going back to “Meechie’s house” to try to figure out what had happened, she took her son to the hospital. She admitted telling him not to speak with police until she knew more. Authorities did ultimately question the boy at a facility where they are trained to handle special victims. He was put into foster care for more than a year after Williams was arrested and pleaded guilty to witness dissuasion, a felony.
During cross-examination, Williams described how her brother had lived with her, their grandfather and her two kids on Delaware Street at the time of the September 2013 shooting. She said she wasn’t working or earning money at the time, though she later admitted — when confronted with a record of text messages from her phone — that she sometimes made money by dealing prescription drugs like Codeine and Percocet.
She said she had dropped off Williams at Meechie’s at his request. She and her brother may have been smoking pot earlier in the day, she said. Her son Elliot had asked to stay at Meechie’s to play with some other kids there. They were riding bikes up and down a long driveway, she recalled. She stayed for about 20 minutes, long enough to smoke marijuana again, though she said it didn’t affect her brother much, beyond giving him “the munchies” and perhaps making him sleepy.
On the stand, Williams disputed telling police that Medearis — the homicide victim — had been at Meechie’s when she was there. She initially said just Meechie, his children’s mother and their kids were there. Later, she remembered other men who had also been at the apartment. But she said Medearis was not among them.
She told Brouhard she would not have told police he was there, and had no memory of him being at Meechie’s.
Brouhard asked Williams to describe what her son had told her about the incident at Meechie’s. She said first her son told her he had heard gunfire, and that his uncle and Tone had been fighting. He saw “both of them” holding the gun, she said. Brouhard asked if her son had seen his uncle shoot at Medearis.
“Not that I can recall,” she said. “It was an altercation.”
After her son was shot, she said, he couldn’t really see anything because of the injury near his eye, which was burning and bleeding. She did recall her son telling her, however, he had heard Tone screaming “stop” and “don’t shoot.”
Brouhard challenged Williams on the stand, and said she had never told police she had dropped her brother off at Meechie’s.
“You said you had gone with your daughter,” he said. She replied, “Not that I can recall.”
“Isn’t it true, when you spoke with the police detective, you never told him the defendant was at Meechie’s?” Brouhard asked again. Williams answered, “I can’t recall.”
Brouhard played in court a recording of a jailhouse phone call between Williams and her brother, where he said it didn’t matter what his nephew might have said — because he was just a kid. In the phone call, she tells her brother how she instructed her son not to say anything about seeing anyone with a gun. She also assured her brother she had told police nothing about him being at Meechie’s.
After hearing the recording, Williams said she probably hadn’t told detectives about that.
“You never told police Elliot told you … he saw the defendant with a gun,” Brouhard said. “Not that I can recall,” Williams replied.
Brouhard asked Williams about text messages between her and her brother. She initially said she did not recall sharing photographs with her brother that way. Brouhard then projected several examples on two screens in the courtroom for the jury.
In one of those photographs, Williams can be seen, shirtless, with two guns tucked into his waistband. Williams said she thought her brother may have sent it to her to post on social media because his phone did not have the Instagram app. Brouhard asked if Williams knew her brother had been prohibited from owning guns because of his criminal history. When she said she did, he asked if she had reported him for it. She said she had not.
“It was kind of camouflaged,” she said, of the weapons. “I never realized the picture ’til after the fact.”
More insight into Berkeley killing believed to have prompted Oakland “rampage”
Brouhard also asked Williams a series of questions about the July 17, 2013, killing of Jermaine Davis — a victim in the earlier Berkeley homicide authorities say led to the “rampage of violence” that prompted Darnell Williams to kill 8-year-old Alaysha Carradine and shoot two other children and their grandmother.
She said she and her brother knew Davis because they had grown up together, gone to the same schools and lived in the same neighborhood. She described Davis and her brother as “close.”
Authorities have said Davis was at one time a leading figure in what they termed the Waterfront gang, though those who knew him said he had reformed his ways in the time leading up to his death.
Chastity Williams said she first heard Davis had been killed through social media, but said she couldn’t remember the details. She recalled talking to her brother and other friends about the shooting, but denied trying to find out what had taken place. The same day Davis was killed she said she did learn — from her brother and others — the identity of the alleged shooter in that incident.
Brouhard asked if that person was Antiown “Twanny” York.
“That was the word that I heard,” Williams said. “It was all over social media.… I did hear word from my brother Darnell and other people.”
She said, like Davis, “Twanny” had been part of the same group of people who had grown up together and gone to the same schools in Berkeley.
“We’re all close. We all know each other,” she said, adding that she didn’t know how to explain it beyond that.
Brouhard asked Williams about contacts in her phone for people named “Tone” and “Twanny” after she denied knowing Medearis and York well. She said she knew more than one person with those names and disputed the contacts in her phone were the people Brouhard had asked her about in connection with the case against her brother.
Brouhard asked Williams if she recalled seeing posts on Instagram after Davis was killed that were disrespectful to him. She first said she did not. But when confronted with several messages from her phone, she remembered seeing them.
She also said she never sent her brother messages about those posts. Brouhard presented three texts from July 18 between her and her brother. In one, someone had posted on Instagram about Davis — who was also known as “Third”: “guy got smoked, he’s nameless now, haha.”
According to phone records from Brouhard, Williams sent that post to her brother and wrote: “Look at this shit” and “hell naw.”
She explained in court: “Third was a friend of ours.” She said she was “in shock” and couldn’t “believe whoever this person was just talkin’.”
She admitted sending a text to her brother about that person, writing that he “was a bitch. he next.” Brouhard asked her what she meant: “Next to be killed?”
“Uh, yeah,” she said.
Brouhard also asked Williams about the day Davis — and, later, Alaysha — had been killed. She said she had been at her friend’s home with her brother “takin’ some shots, watching TV.” Brouhard noted that there were calls that night between her phone and her brother’s.
“If you were calling him, you weren’t with him,” Brouhard said, and Williams did not dispute the question.
Monday, the defense team put on a series of witnesses they hoped would bolster their case. By the end of the day, they had completed that effort. They called back several witnesses who had already taken the stand, including Britney Rogers, and Sgt. Rob Rosin and others from the Oakland Police Department.
During the questioning of Rogers, defense attorney Deborah Levy primarily focused on how it seemed Rogers had claimed to be afraid of Williams, but regularly told him “no” and never faced any consequences. Levy also brought up numerous casual, affectionate texts from Rogers to Williams, and suggested Rogers’ claims about having been afraid for her safety had been overblown.
Levy also brought up texts to Williams she said were from a number associated with Rogers that indicated prostitution activity. Rogers said she had never engaged in prostitution and did not recognize the number Levy was asking her about.
Rogers said, at the time they were dating, Williams would often take her phone and use it. She said, as it turned out, there were also other women in his life she had not known about.
“There’s a lot of things on my phone that I probably don’t know about,” she told Levy.
On cross-examination, Brouhard asked Rogers about a photograph of a gun from Williams’ phone that had chrome on top with a black handle and an extended clip. It was similar to the description Rogers had given to police during an interview in September 2013, which Brouhard also played in court, about a weapon she’d seen Williams with.
Rogers said that photograph looked similar to what she’d seen Williams come home with the night of Alaysha’s shooting, though she said she couldn’t be absolutely sure it was the same gun.
“Is there anything that looks different from what the defendant came home with?” Brouhard asked.
“No,” Rogers said. She said, on cross-examination, however, that she had seem him with guns like that more than once, and that all of his guns had extended clips.
Alameda County Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Horner released the jury at the end of the day and said he and the attorneys would use the the rest of the week to wrap up some business associated with the case, such as discussing which evidence would be submitted and agreeing on final jury instructions. Closing arguments are scheduled to take place Monday at 9:30 a.m.
Berkeley killings get spotlight in death penalty case (04.25.16)
Newly found photo could bolster prosecution’s case in death penalty trial (04.15.16)
Ex-girlfriend of accused killer: ‘I feel scared to this day’ (04.11.16)
Judge orders Williams trial to continue after defendant threatens suicide, violence (04.04.16)
Years on, Alaysha Carradine killing is still haunting (03.31.16)
Defense says lack of evidence will cast doubt in double murder trial (03.29.16)
Prosecutor: Berkeley killing sparked ‘rampage of violence’ that left little girl dead (03.29.16)
1 held to answer in Berkeley murder of ‘Lil Tone’ (01.13.14)
‘Snitch’ rumor leads to Berkeley dad’s murder (01.09.14)
2 testify in Berkeley murder hearing against Oakland man (01.08.14)
Breaking: Police announce arrest in Berkeley homicide (01.07.14)
Robbery attempt led to Medearis killing; 2 charged (10.01.13)
‘Ceasefire Walk Against Violence’ comes to West Berkeley (10.01.13)
Relatives remember Berkeley shooting victim ‘Lil Tone’ (09.10.13)
Man dies after shooting in West Berkeley (09.08.13)
Murdered man was brother of man killed by gangs in 2009 (07.18.13)
Breaking: Man shot and killed on Derby Street in Berkeley (07.17.13)
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[A relative of Anthony Medearis told us he is a III, not a Jr. This story and those published previously have been corrected.]