Lawyer: Evidence in home invasion case unreliable

March 12, 2012 1:49:53 PM PDT
The defense attorney for one of two men accused of committing a string of home invasion robberies in Oakland in 2010 told jurors today that the evidence against them is too unreliable to find them guilty.

In his closing argument in the trial of Romier Simmons, 26, and Christopher Malbrough, 24, Frank Lang, who represents Simmons, said many victims couldn't identify the men in court at all and said the prosecution's most reliable witness was only 60 percent sure they were the culprits.

"You wouldn't want to base a conviction" on only a 60 percent certainty, Lang said.

He told jurors, "The identification of the suspects is subject to a whole lot of doubt."

But prosecutor Laura Passaglia said in the first part of her closing argument on Thursday that she believes the evidence against Simmons and Malbrough is overwhelming and indicates that they engaged in a pattern of targeting Asian and Hispanic immigrants between March and November 2010.

After the two men were arrested, Oakland police Sgt. Randy Wingate said that although Simmons lived in Stockton at the time of the crimes and Malbrough lived in Hayward, they were born and raised in Oakland and know it well.

Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O'Malley said after their arrests that Malbrough could face up to 500 years in state prison if he were convicted of all the charges against him and Simmons could face 300 years.

But on Aug. 5, 2011, her office agreed to a plea deal in which each man would receive a 26-year sentence and be eligible for parole when they are in their mid-40s.

Simmons and Malbrough each pleaded no contest to one count of first-degree robbery with the use of a firearm as well as to 18 counts of second-degree burglary.

However, Superior Court Judge Morris Jacobson allowed Simmons and Malbrough to withdraw their pleas late last year and go to trial on the charges against them.

A third suspect, 22-year-old Kyla Bayless of Milpitas, who was Malbrough's girlfriend, has pleaded no contest to one felony count and faces a short prison term when she is sentenced later this year.

Passaglia will present her rebuttal closing argument later today after Lang and Malbrough's attorney, Darryl Billups, finish their arguments. Jurors will then begin their deliberations either late today or Tuesday morning.

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