Ronald Thomas, 21, was convicted on Oct. 3, 2011, of second-degree murder and using a firearm to cause death for killing Alvin Burns Jr. in the 8700 block of MacArthur Blvd., near Castlemont High School, shortly before 11 p.m. on Nov. 20, 2009.
However, Thomas's sentencing was delayed for a year because after he was convicted he fired his trial attorney, David Washington, and hired two new lawyers who filed a motion for a new trial. Alameda County Superior Court Judge Morris Jacobson eventually denied Thomas' motion and finally sentenced him today.
Prosecutor Mark Jackson said Burns was celebrating his 24th birthday with several female friends and at one point during the evening they parked in front of the Youth Uprising community center in the 8700 block of MacArthur Boulevard in Oakland to wait for the boyfriend of one of the women to come outside.
Jackson said one of the women yelled Thomas' name and Thomas then walked toward the women and Burns, whom he didn't know.
The prosecutor said Thomas looked inside the car, asked Burns "What's up" in an aggressive manner, pulled out a .40-caliber handgun from his waistband and shot Burns once in the head.
Jackson said the motive for the killing was never established, as it's unclear if Thomas dated one of the women who were with Burns. Thomas was arrested after he walked out of the Century 16 Hilltop movie theater complex on Klose Way in Richmond the day after the shooting. He was apprehended after a brief foot pursuit.
Washington, Thomas's trial attorney, said after the verdict last year that he believed Thomas was innocent and wasn't present when Burns was killed.
Washington also said the prosecution's witnesses were "very unreliable."
Eight of Burns' family members and friends and 13 of Thomas' family members attended the sentencing hearing. Several of Thomas' family members quietly sobbed and dabbed their eyes with tissue after Jacobson pronounced the lengthy prison term for Thomas.
Jacobson told Burns' family members and friends that he hopes they will set aside their bitterness over Burns's death, saying the sentencing of Thomas "allows you to shut this chapter of the book" and "frees you to remember the person you loved."