On August 11, 2009 Nathan Burris drove to the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge toll plaza and shot and killed his ex-girlfriend Deborah Ross and her friend Ersie Everette Jr., Burris said Thursday in court.
Burris—who is representing himself in the capital trial in Martinez—took to the witness stand and described for the jurors how he did it, and why.
“I have no feelings about it,” Burris said. “I have no regrets about it. I am not going to get on my knees and ask for mercy.”
Burris, who has a partial vocal cord paralysis, was often difficult to understand. He apologized for himself saying, “I’m a little more nervous than normal.” At times Burris’ speech became jumbled, words tumbling quickly after one another. He would then repeat himself and try to slow down.
“When you’re going on a mission like I was going on, you want to be successful,” Burris said. “You don’t want to fail.”
With permission from presiding Judge John Kennedy, Burris stood up and used a diagram of the crime scene, displayed on the white board behind him, to show his actions that day.
Positioning a magnet on the board to the spot where he said Everette’s car was parked, Burris described how he had slashed the tire earlier in the day to lure Everette there. He then told the courtroom—filled not just with jurors and lawyers but with Everette’s and Ross’ family members—how he drove over to a nearby parking spot and shot and killed Everette.
“When I saw him, I got up out of the van,” Burris said. “I had my shotgun, my .25 and my AR15.”
Burris said he had everything set up on the passenger side of the van so he could access it quickly.
“I shot him in the head,” Burris said.
After killing Everette, Burris said, he intended to stop, and he said it was not his original plan to kill Ross. Earlier in his testimony, Burris had said that Ross had a relationship with Everette. Senior Deputy District Attorney Harold Jewett and Ross’s family say that Ross and Burris had broken up prior to the shooting, but Burris has said that since he and Ross were still living together he didn’t consider them broken up.
“My hate and passion and anger got the better of me,” Burris said. “I went for her.
“I’ll say it again,” Burris said. “I have no feelings. No remorse. No regrets.”
Burris said he has no time for those feelings. And, he said, he believes he was justified in what he did, calling it an act of “self-preservation.”
“If you mess with my family or someone I care about,” Burris said, “I go into self preservation mode.
“I am not claiming self-defense,” he added.
Burris said he thought it was within his constitutional rights to kill Everette because he felt threatened by Everette’s relationship with Ross, and because of a phone call he said took place between him and Everette. Burris did not elaborate on what he perceived as the threat.
Earlier, in an opening statement read by his advisory lawyer Larry Barnes, Burris said, “I was working. Then, after being threatened by a victim I had to work to protect my well-being. Nothing more.”
During testimony, Burris said his upbringing and training as a long-haul truck driver and security guard have taught him to take threats seriously.
“We were taught not just self defense, but self-preservation,” he said. “It’s a natural animal instinct to protect what’s yours.”
At the end of his opening statement Burris asked the jury to return a not guilty verdict, though he later said he thinks that is highly unlikely.
Chuckling, Burris said that if the jury “by some miracle” finds him innocent he will go to his sister’s and get his long haul trucking license and get back on the road.
Even if they don’t find him innocent, he assured the jury he’d be fine. Happy even.
“I’m happy. I’m smiling. I’m laughing,” Burris said. He characterized his cell as an apartment and said he has it good—getting multiple newspapers delivered to him and a warm, clean place to sleep.
“If this is my retirement, so be it,” Burris said.
After the lunch break, Judge Kennedy decided to recess until Monday morning because Burris said his voice was to weak for him to continue testifying.