After four weeks in trial, with 13 days of testimony and 36 witnesses, prosecutor John Brouhard began his closing arguments Monday in the double homicide case that could result in the death penalty for Darnell Williams Jr. if the jury finds him guilty.
Williams, 25, has been charged with eight felonies and several special circumstances in connection with the fatal shootings in 2013 of 8-year-old Alaysha Carradine in Oakland and 22-year-old Anthony “Tone” Medearis III in Berkeley less than two months later.
“This defendant is committed to what he calls street justice,” Brouhard told the jury. He described how, bent on “retribution and revenge” after the killing of his friend Jermaine “Third” Davis in Berkeley, Williams set out to get back at the person he believed was responsible.
“He’s not grieving the death of his friend, he is preparing for war,” Brouhard told the jury. “He lured three children to a door and then he unleashed a barrage of gunfire when they least expected it.”
It was an emotional day for relatives of Alaysha and Medearis, as Brouhard described in detail the killings, played video from an officer’s body cam and flashed autopsy photographs on screens as part of his elaborate presentation. At one point, he set up a timer in front of jurors to illustrate just how long 3 minutes and 15 seconds could be: the time, he said, between when Williams’ phone had pinged off a tower near the apartment where Alaysha had been a guest at a sleepover, and the time the first 911 call about her shooting came in.
Prosecutor: Corroboration, corroboration, corroboration
The prosecution relies heavily on statements by two key witnesses — Britney Rogers and Laquana Nuño — who say Williams told them what he did on Wilson Avenue at the home of the estranged family of Antiown “Twanny” York, who has been identified by authorities as Davis’ killer.
The stories of both women are similar, Brouhard said, and some of the details they shared could only have been known by Alaysha’s killer. Take the couch.
Grandmother Clara Fields testified she was resting on the couch after a long day of work when the shooting took place. Rogers told police Williams had described to her, hours after the shooting, having seen a woman on the couch at the Wilson Avenue home, and continuing to fire his gun.
“The defendant is providing details that show you that he was there. He knows facts about that murder that only … the killer would know,” Brouhard told the jury.
Police did an exhaustive search to find out whether the detail of the couch, in 2013, had ever appeared in the media. Brouhard said it had not, adding that, if it had, “you can bet your boots” the defense attorneys would have brought it in as evidence. “It’s not out there,” he added.
Brouhard said Rogers, Nuño and Williams’ own cellphone records tell the same story of the night of Alaysha’s shooting, July 17, 2013. Williams started at a gathering in West Oakland with Rogers, went to East Oakland for “a meeting” after Davis was killed, then ended up at the Wilson Avenue apartment where the shooting took place before returning to Rogers’ West Oakland home. The cellphone records are not exact but Brouhard said they put Williams in the area of all the locations described by both women.
Both women said Williams confided that someone told him where York’s “baby mama” lived, took him there and pointed out the house to him. Brouhard said, at 11:10 p.m., an incoming call to Williams pinged off a tower near the Wilson Avenue apartment, but went to voicemail. The phone was then powered down. At 11:14 p.m., the first 911 calls about the shooting began to come in.
Brouhard showed on a map how the cell tower data put Williams “in the range” — within blocks — of the murder scene in the minutes before the shooting. He said he didn’t have Williams’ exact location, but that what he had was enough: “What we know from these records is that he’s close.”
Both women said Williams walked up to the door alone.
The kids had been playing upstairs when the bell rang. They came downstairs and stopped to pick up some toys before going to the front door. Brouhard described how Amara York, then 7, opened the door after asking “Who is it?” and expected to find her mother on the other side of the metal security screen.
The shooter heard a child’s voice. He had taken time, Brouhard said, to point his weapon at an angle toward the ground, between 38 and 48 inches high. He waited for the knob to turn, then opened fire.
“He waited to be sure that his targets, the reason he’s there, are really where he needs them to be,” Brouhard said. Alaysha was mortally wounded, struck in the base of the neck. Amara was hit in the shoulder, and her little brother, 4 at the time, was grazed across the belly. At the end of the hallway, on the couch, Fields was struck by a bullet in the femur. It remains there today.
Brouhard showed the jury a photograph of pink and yellow dowels piercing through the wooden interior door on Wilson Avenue to illustrate the downward trajectory of all 13 bullets fired that night: “This photograph is disturbing because this photograph unmistakably shows you where the defendant was aiming his gun.”
The rods also showed that the door was opening throughout the shooting. Amara ran back and slammed it when the gunfire stopped, her grandmother testified.
Brouhard said Alaysha herself, in the ambulance en route to the hospital, before screaming that she was dying, said she had seen “a man” when a paramedic asked her about the identity of her shooter. Amara, too, said she saw a man, who was wearing a black hoodie, holding a gun. (Rogers said she also saw Williams in a black hoodie that night.) Brouhard described both girls’ statements as important evidence in the case.
“During this horrific murder, Alaysha saw her killer. Amara saw him as well,” Brouhard told the jury. “That’s so important because it shows you: Not only could they see him, but he could see them.”
Prosecutor: “This phone is the DNA”
Brouhard described Williams’ cellphone — recovered by police hours after the Sept. 8, 2013, shooting in Berkeley that killed Medearis, the night Williams himself was arrested — as an “invaluable” piece of evidence.
Authorities found on that phone more corroboration of Rogers’ statements in the form of two photographs: one of a green camouflage bulletproof vest she saw Williams wearing the night of Alaysha’s shooting, and another featuring a gun, chrome with a black handle, she said looked the same as the one she saw him come home with that night.
Brouhard said phone records show Williams had that gun before and after the shooting. A photograph of the gun, a SIG Sauer P228, was taken by the camera on Williams’ phone July 9, about a week before Alaysha’s shooting. And a time-stamped text message including that photo put the gun in his possession less than two days after it, Brouhard said. In the text, Williams identified the gun as his own and said he was looking to buy more.
Brouhard described that photograph, which was only discovered in April after Williams insisted on having access to his phone records, as “devastating evidence.” The guns were never recovered from either shooting, but a firearms expert testified that he knew of no other firearm in the world, other than the SIG Sauer P228, that could have fired the bullets that killed Alaysha. (Bullets and casings were recovered at the scene, and he used those, along with a test weapon, to make his analysis.)
The prosecution had previously pointed to numerous photographs of Glock pistols on Williams’ phone as indicators he had access to the type of weapon that later killed Medearis.
Describing the selfies of Williams from the phone that were shown in court throughout the trial, recordings of him on the phone that were part of a wiretap investigation tied to the case, and Williams’ own reports to police — in September 2013 — that he’d had the same phone for five months, Brouhard said Williams’ phone “is always connected with the defendant.”
Brouhard said, despite their best efforts, authorities had been unable to find DNA associated with the defendant at the scene. But he asked the jury to focus on the corroborating statements of Rogers and Nuño, along with the data and location information linked to the phone, as they considered the case.
“I don’t have any DNA for you,” he told the jury. “This phone is the DNA in this case.”
Brouhard took the entire day Monday to outline elements of his case and the law to the jury, most of which related to Alaysha’s killing. He began to discuss the Medearis homicide late Monday afternoon. He is scheduled to continue that effort Tuesday morning, and be followed by arguments from the defense team. Brouhard will then have a chance to offer a rebuttal before the jury is excused for deliberation, which could occur Wednesday.
Stay tuned to Berkeleyside for continuing coverage.
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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)
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Breaking: Police announce arrest in Berkeley homicide (01.07.14)
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