Wednesday afternoon, an Alameda County Superior Court judge ordered convicted double murderer Darnell Williams Jr. to be executed by the state of California.
Williams, 25, of Berkeley was convicted by a jury in May, after nearly a month of testimony, of two fatal shootings in 2013. The victims were 8-year-old Alaysha Carradine, who was a guest at a sleepover when she was gunned down, and — less than two months later — 22-year-old Anthony “Tone” Medearis III, a father of two. Williams also was found guilty of the attempted murders of two children at the sleepover and their grandmother, as well as the unintentional shooting of his own nephew during the Berkeley killing.
In June, the jury recommended that Williams be sentenced to death. Judge Jeffrey Horner then undertook an extensive independent review of the case before making his ruling Wednesday about what the sentence would be.
Horner said Wednesday the “overwhelming weight” of the evidence supported the jury’s death penalty verdict from earlier this year. He also sentenced Williams to an additional 172 years to life in prison should the death sentence be taken off the table at a later date, and ordered him to pay about $35,000 in fees and fines for restitution and court costs.
Williams said nothing publicly throughout the hearing. At times, he looked around to see who was in the courtroom. But, for the most part, he kept his head down and faced forward. Williams is slated to be taken from Santa Rita Jail in Dublin to San Quentin State Prison in Marin County on Wednesday, authorities say.
“Justice has been truly served,” said Jackie Winters, aunt of Medearis, in remarks to the court before the sentencing. “I really don’t understand how one person can inflict so much pain on two different families.”
Prosecutor John Brouhard also read from a written statement by Chiquita Carradine, the mother of Alaysha, who could not attend the hearing, in part, because it “would be difficult,” Brouhard said.
“I will never see my first and only daughter graduate,” she wrote. “I will never get to see her go to prom, I will never get to see her off to college. I will never get another family photo.”
Added Brouhard, after the hearing, “It’s been some months since the death verdict, but this kind of brought it all back and, quite frankly, it was hard to relive it again.… When you’re talking about murders like this and especially the murder of a child, this is emotional and it’s tough to deal with.”
Medearis’ mother, Dolanda Moore Medearis, asked the judge for justice in her remarks before the sentencing.
“He’s on death row but he’s still getting three meals a day,” she said, of Williams. “I’m lost without my baby.”
She also played a voicemail recording from Medearis’ young son, who said, “I miss him so much,” of his father, and asked, of Williams: “Why would you do that?”
Medearis’ mother, who had been calm throughout the day’s proceeding, then began shouting, “Why would you do it, why would you do it?” before being escorted from the courtroom due to the disruption.
Darryl J. Billups, one of Williams’ two defense attorneys, told the judge he would have shared some comments before sentencing, but his client asked him not to speak. After the hearing, Billups didn’t have much more to say: “It’s done, and I can move on now,” he said.
Deborah Levy — his other defense attorney — said the case would now automatically go to the state appeals court and would likely be handled by someone else.
In his remarks earlier in the day, Judge Horner disputed the defense’s position throughout the trial that Williams “never had a chance” due to the many challenging circumstances in his life.
“Sadly, this is just not true. A lot of people cared about him,” Horner said. “He was offered a lot of chances over the years. He spurned them all.”
Read complete coverage of the case.
In extensive remarks Wednesday where Horner described many elements of the testimony and evidence from the guilt and penalty phases of the trial, he also described Williams’ “obsession with guns, with crime, with violence, with revenge, with so-called street justice.”
The jury’s recommendation in June was the first death penalty sentence in Alameda County under the leadership of District Attorney Nancy O’Malley. At that time, O’Malley described the killings as a “crime spree that’s as heinous as we’ve seen.”
Horner said Wednesday morning that the aggravating factors in the case were “so substantial” that “death is warranted.” He said the jury’s ruling was appropriate due to the extensive evidence and testimony presented in the case.
Authorities said Williams killed Alaysha in Oakland in July 2013 as retribution for the fatal shooting earlier that day of his longtime friend Jermaine Davis in Berkeley.
Alaysha was a guest at a sleepover at the home of the wife and children of the man authorities say killed Davis. According to court testimony, Williams went to that home and opened fire — discharging 13 bullets — and was intent on exacting revenge by killing the former girlfriend and children of the man he believed to have killed his friend.
Medearis’ killing took place following a fight at a dice game in West Berkeley less than two months later. According to authorities, Williams planned to rob Medearis and wanted to kill him because of allegations he had “snitched” to police during an earlier incident.
Wednesday, before any of the sentencing discussion, Levy argued for a new trial for her client. The main thrust of her position was that the two murder cases should have been separate trials from the get-go.
Levy told the judge the case against Williams for Alaysha’s killing was “so much weaker” than the Medearis shooting, where Williams had been arrested nearby and tied by video surveillance to the area.
Prosecutor Brouhard argued that the main legal reason for joining the cases was because much of the crucial testimony related to both incidents. Judge Horner said he agreed with that assessment, and said, too, that a weak case had not been tied to a strong case.
“Both cases were strong,” Horner said. “The murder of Alaysha Carradine was a horrific event, but so was the murder of Anthony Medearis.”
Horner also noted that the charges against Williams involved three “special circumstances” that were upheld by the jury. Any one of them could have made the case eligible for the death penalty. The jury found Williams guilty of the special circumstance of “lying in wait” in Alaysha’s shooting, and of murder during the commission or attempted commission of a robbery in the Medearis shooting. The third special circumstance was because Williams was found guilty of “multiple murders.”
After Horner denied the defense motion for a new trial, he considered the “automatic appeal” — required by law — from the defendant to modify the jury’s verdict. The law allows the judge to hand down a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole, rather than death.
Levy told the judge a sentence of life in prison “protects society” just as well as a death sentence, and that the death penalty “may be taken away” by voters in November if Proposition 62 passes. (A competing measure, Proposition 66, seeks to reform the death penalty process.)
The last inmate executed in California was Clarence Ray Allen in 2006, according to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitations. Only 13 inmates have been executed in the state since 1978, which is as far back as the CDCR tally goes.
Horner asked if Williams would like to make any statements on his own behalf before Horner himself made his ruling.
“Mr. Williams has chosen not to address the court,” Levy told the judge.
Horner said he had “carefully reviewed” all the evidence, transcripts and testimony from the case, then proceeded to summarize the May and June verdicts as well as some of the key facts from both murders.
Horner said Williams knew — after a little girl’s voice asked “who is it?” — at least one small child was in his “kill zone” when he opened fire, pointing with a lowered trajectory, as the door opened at the Oakland home of the family of the man Williams believed killed his friend.
Horner also described the chilling footage from a police officer’s body cam that showed the immediate aftermath of the shooting. The footage shows Oakland Police Officer Jason Mitchell rushing Alaysha to the ambulance, shouting for people to get out of his way. He knew the little girl was dying.
“Those images will perhaps stay with us all forever,” Horner said. “I know they will for me.”
Horner recalled Alaysha’s last words, as she called out that she was dying and said she was cold. He then pulled out a large color photograph — which had been projected on screens during the trial — of a team of six or seven doctors at Highland Hospital “desperately trying to save” Alaysha’s life.
“They couldn’t do it,” Horner said.
“Oh god, oh god,” whispered Medearis’ mother, Dolanda, from the gallery as the judge displayed the photograph from the bench.
Horner said the wounds inflicted by Alaysha’s killing were “far too deep” to be healed by any ruling he makes in the case. But he said he prayed the sentence “can at least put her to rest” and allow the family to “achieve some measure of peace.”
He spent a significant amount of time Wednesday discussing a shank Williams made in prison — discovered by authorities — which was an indication to some that, even incarcerated, he could continue to be a danger to others.
Said prosecutor Brouhard, “That shank foreshadows the next murder this defendant will commit, while he is supposedly incapacitated through incarceration.”
“A death sentence for this defendant is the only punishment that will achieve justice,” Brouhard said.
The story was updated after publication due to the developing nature of the story.
Follow Berkeleyside on Twitter and Facebook or get the latest news in your inbox with Berkeleyside’s Daily Briefing. Email us at email@example.com. Support independent local journalism by becoming a Berkeleyside member.