Burris makes first court appearance


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Nathaniel Burris, 46, has been charged with two counts of murder in connection with the deaths of his ex-girlfriend, 51-year-old Deborah Ross, and 58-year-old San Leandro resident Ersie "Chuck" Everette.

He has also been charged with enhancements for allegedly using a shotgun to commit both murders and the special circumstances allegations that he committed multiple murders and committed them by lying in wait, charges that make him eligible for the death penalty.

"I'm pleading guilty. I did it. I did it by lying in wait. I don't need all this. I want to go back to my cell," Burris said as he stood inside a holding cell in the Martinez courtroom flanked by three sheriff's deputies.

When Contra Costa County Superior Court Judge Leslie Landau ordered him to stop talking and said he needed to speak with an attorney before making statements in court, Burris told her that he had already talked to a lawyer and told the lawyer that he wanted to plead guilty and represent himself.

"I'm guilty. I did it," Burris said again.

"All I need now is the penalty phase," Burris said. "They can kill me. I don't need 20 or 30 years. Why's it have to take so long? Let's just do it now."

The judge ordered Burris to stop talking. Then she explained to him that the arraignment needed to be done according to procedure to preserve his constitutional rights.

The shootings happened during the evening commute at the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge toll plaza on Interstate Highway 580.

Ross had arrived at work that day in Everette's pickup truck.

While the truck was parked in the toll plaza parking lot, Burris allegedly slashed its tires and then watched the vehicle through binoculars until Everette arrived and got in.

At about 5:55 p.m. Burris allegedly approached the vehicle and shot Everette multiple times in the head and chest with a shotgun.

The gunman then walked across lanes of traffic over to toll booth No. 3 where Ross was working and began firing on her, California Highway Patrol Officer Sam Morgan said.

Ross, who had worked for Caltrans for eight years, died from multiple shotgun wounds to her torso and right upper extremities, a deputy coroner said.

Burris then fled the area in a Western Eagle Transit van, police said.

The CHP issued a statewide alert and, at about 3 a.m. Wednesday, CHP officers spotted the van on Interstate Highway 80 in Placer County in the Sierra foothills, Morgan said.

Burris did not resist arrest and was taken into custody without incident, Morgan said.

Richmond police said that Ross and Burris had lived together in the 400 block of Second Street in Richmond.

Deputy District Attorney Harold Jewett said that Burris appears to have been angered by a potential breakup between him and Ross and felt that he had been disrespected by the way it was being handled.

Although the nature of the relationship between Ross and Everette was still unclear, Jewett said that it appears that she had been seeking emotional support from him during her breakup.

"He doesn't seem to have any regret at all about what he's done," Jewett told reporters outside the courthouse today.

He said that although Burris said he was guilty, the court did not officially accept Burris' statements today as a plea. And even if Burris officially pleads guilty and asks to be executed, there would still have to be a trial in which a jury would decide whether the death penalty was appropriate in this case.

Jewett also said that Burris has a constitutional right to defend himself, but they would have to wait and see what Burris' attitude was next week once a little more time had passed.

Deputy Public Defender Laurie Mont, who consulted with Burris during the arraignment, said she couldn't comment on the case.

Burris is scheduled to return to court in Martinez on Thursday to enter a plea. The court may also hold a hearing on Burris' request to represent himself.

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