OAKLAND, Calif. --Darnell Williams looked straight ahead and showed no emotion today when jurors convicted him of two counts of first-degree murder for fatally shooting an 8-year-old girl in Oakland in July 2013 and a 22-year-old man in Berkeley seven weeks later.
Relatives of his two victims, Alaysha Carradine and Anthony Medearis III, shed tears and hugged each other but declined to say much after the verdicts were announced against Williams, a 25-year-old Oakland man, in the packed courtroom of Alameda County Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Horner, which was guarded by eight bailiffs.
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Shaquilla Jackson, Alaysha's cousin, told reporters, "We've waited three years for this and it's finally over." Jackie Winters, Medearis' aunt, who sat next to his mother when the verdicts were read, said, "We're happy, we got closure" but said she didn't want to comment further at this time because Williams' case actually isn't finished yet.
That's because Williams now faces a separate penalty phase at which jurors will choose between recommending the death penalty or life in prison without the possibility of parole. It will begin on May 16. Alaysha's mother, Chiquita Carradine, moved out of the state after Alaysha was killed and wasn't present for the verdict against Williams, which took more than 10 minutes for the court clerk to read. Carradine attended opening statements in Williams' trial on March 28 and will return for the penalty phase because she and other family members of Alaysha and Medearis will testify about the impact their deaths have had on them.
The attorneys in the case didn't comment on the verdict because Horner issued an order barring them from talking to the news media. Prosecutor John Brouhard alleged in his closing argument in the month-long trial that Williams fired at least 13 shots into an apartment in the 3400 block of Wilson Avenue in Oakland at about 11:15 p.m. on July 17, 2013, in retaliation for the fatal shooting of his close friend, 26-year-old reputed gang member Jermaine Davis, in the 1800 block of Derby Street in Berkeley about five hours earlier.
Brouhard said Williams wanted to harm anyone who was close to Antiown York, the man he thought had murdered Davis, and went to the apartment because York's ex-girlfriend, who was the mother of York's 7-year-old girl and 4-year-old boy, lived there. The mother wasn't home when Williams arrived at the apartment but the two children were there along with their 63-year-old grandmother and Alaysha, who was a close friend of the 7-year-old girl and was spending the night there. The 7-year-old girl, the 4-year-old boy and their grandmother were also struck by gunfire but survived their injuries.
York was charged with murdering Davis but the charge was dismissed in September 2004 because a key prosecution witness wasn't available. Brouhard alleged that Williams shot Medearis because he thought he was a snitch and also because he wanted to rob him because he had run out of money to buy guns, drugs and jewelry.
Brouhard said Williams killed Medearis after a dispute at a dice game, chasing Medearis down and shooting him in the back as he pleaded for his life. But Williams' lawyers, Deborah Levy and Darryl Billups, asked jurors to find Williams not guilty, saying there wasn't enough evidence to convict him.
In her closing argument, Levy said, "There are no fingerprints, no DNA, no guns and no eyewitnesses" that tie Williams to the two fatal shootings.
In addition to the two murder counts, Williams was convicted of three counts of premeditated attempted murder and the special circumstance of lying in wait for the Oakland shooting, the special circumstance of murdering Medearis during the course of an attempted robbery and the special circumstance of committing multiple murders.
He also was convicted of shooting at an inhabited dwelling for the Oakland shooting, assault with a semi-automatic firearm for accidentally striking his 7-year-old nephew in the face with a bullet fragment in the Berkeley shooting and two counts of possession of a firearm by an ex-felon.
Those two charges were based on Williams' 2010 conviction for assault with a semi-automatic firearm.