Nathan Burris, who is defending himself against first-degree murder charges in a 2009 double homicide on the Richmond-San Rafael bridge, began Wednesday in court by asking for a mistrial — and ended the day by confessing to the shootings of Deborah Ross and Ersie Everette.
“I did it,” Burris said, after Judge John Kennedy asked him if he had any objections to Senior Deputy District Attorney Harold Jewett moving autopsy pictures into evidence. “So what? I shot them.”
Burris’ admission came just as the prosecution was preparing to rest its case and capped an emotional roller coaster of a day for the victims’ family members.
Burris and Deborah Ross had recently broken up when Burris went to the bridge—where he knew Deborah was working as a tollbooth taker—and killed her and her friend, Everette, according to the case laid out by Jewett this week.
“He’s doing what he’s doing because he knows we can’t react,” said Ladietra Ross, Deborah Ross’ younger sister, after leaving the courtroom. “It hurts us because we knew him. They were together for 13 years.”
The families had reacted Tuesday, jumping out of their seats and loudly protesting, following statements from Burris during the cross-examination of a Richmond Police officer.
Jewett blamed Burris for Tuesday’s outburst from the family. “He said, ‘I don’t care about them. They’re shot. They’re dead. Fuck the family,’” Jewett said, reading from Tuesday’s court transcript.
Before jurors were allowed in the room Wednesday, Burris’ advisory lawyer Larry Barnes spoke for Burris and his frustration with the trial so far.
“Mr. Burris wanted to admit to every allegation,” Barnes said. “But the court wouldn’t let him.
“This has been emotionally draining on Mr. Burris to sit here,” Barnes added before stating Burris’ request for Judge Kennedy to declare a mistrial because the jury had been unfairly influenced by Tuesday’s events.
Kennedy ruled that he would not declare a mistrial and that the reason Burris had to go through a trial was because this is a capital case—meaning the death penalty is a possible sentence.
“The law does not permit anyone to plead guilty at a capital trial,” Kennedy said. He went on to say that even if Burris did plead guilty he would still have to stand trial because the death penalty is not permitted without a sentencing trial.
Burris sat, mostly quiet, while Jewett called witness after witness. The last person to take the witness stand Wednesday was Dr. Ikechi Ogan, the pathologist who performed the autopsies on Ross and Everette.
For over an hour, Ogan explained in graphic detail the injuries he found on the victims while Jewett illustrated each place the shotgun’s bullets pierced with close up pictures of the bodies.
During Ogan’s long, detailed testimony, members from the victims’ families held each other and sobbed softly.
Burris asked only two questions during his cross examination of Ogan. “The man that was shot, his neck was twisted,” Burris said. “Was that good shooting?”
“I’m not an expert on shooting,” Ogan said.
“The woman,” Burris said, “was it good shooting?”
Burris will present his case Thursday morning. He told Judge Kennedy Wednesday that he doesn’t anticipate it taking very long.