Sentencing trial for convicted Richmond-San Rafael bridge shooter begins
on November 9, 2012
Nathan Burris, convicted of murder, spent more time defending himself in court today—during the sentencing portion of his trial—than he did during the guilt portion.
Wednesday, Burris was found guilty of two counts of murder in the first degree with the special circumstance of lying in wait, making him eligible for the death penalty and sending him into this sentencing trial immediately.
Throughout the guilt portion of the trial, Burris made it clear to jurors that he did it—telling them again and again that he was guilty and using his time on the witness stand to describe how he killed his ex-girlfriend, Deborah Ann Ross and her friend Ersie Everette Jr. at the Richmond-San Rafael bridge toll plaza.
But, when it came to prosecutor Senior Deputy District Attorney Harold Jewett calling witnesses to testify on Burris’ reputation at work Burris balked.
“It’s a waste of time and money. Why do the people insist on bringing up something
that happened in 1992 or ’93?”
As for the best way to determine whether or not he should get the death penalty,
Burris had a solution for that: “All we need to do is flip a coin,” Burris said.
Half of the day was spent with Burris, who continues to represent himself, and his assistant lawyer Larry Barnes objecting to the evidence Jewett requested to enter in the trial.
After that was settled Jewett called his first witness, Enrique Blackman. Blackman worked with Burris about twenty years ago at a security agency. Reading from a report he wrote in 1993 Blackman described how Burris had yelled obscenities at a woman in the area they worked.
Burris objected during his testimony saying it was too long ago to be considered. “This is what I’m talking about, it’s too many years in the past,” he said.
Judge John W. Kennedy overruled his objection, as he continued to do throughout the day, as Burris objected to testimony without any legal basis.
When Burris had the chance to cross-examine Blackman he used it to try and discredit him. “Your story is fabricated,” he said. “Why did you write that report?”
“Whatever is in the report is what happened that day,” Blackman said.
Following Blackman, Jewett called a wife and husband—one after the other—who said they experienced Burris’ threatening side first hand.
Linda Keichline and her husband Franklin William Keichline run a trucking company out of Eddyville, Kentucky. In 2007 they hired Burris to haul cars across the country for them. The relationship between them and Burris quickly turned sour, they each testified. After a few months working for them, Linda and Frank decided to fire Burris.
“He seemed to get lost a lot,” Linda said. In addition, she said Burris had “excessive damages” to the truck and consistently missed delivery deadlines.
“The event I’m guilty of was in 2009,” Burris said, objecting again.
After the Keichlines fired Burris they said, in separate testimonies, he became frightening—leaving messages that increased in their aggressiveness. The problem, they said was that he owed them over $9,000 when he was fired and despite a promissory note they decided to hold his tool set they found in the truck as collateral until the debt was paid.
“I started keeping a gun in my drawer at work,” Linda said. She said her and Frank went to the shooting range and brushed up on their skills. They even put a coworker through training and told her to apply for a license to carry.
In his cross-examination, Burris asked Linda: “Why did you come to here? For what?”
“Because I was asked by the District Attorney,” Linda said. “I feel you are a very dangerous man and I came to testify to that,” she said. “You were always a bit frightening,” she added, looking Burris straight in the eye.
During Frank’s testimony Jewett played a recording of Burris’ messages to the couple, where he cursed at them repeatedly and told them to pull his criminal record from the San Francisco Police Department so they could really see what kind of man he is.
“Live and let live,” Burris said at the end of one of the messages. “Die and let die.”
After her testimony, Linda said it was hard to take the stand and talk to Burris, but she was glad to be there and very glad he’d be going away. “We would prefer the he get the death penalty,” she said.
Linda said that she reached out to Deborah Ross after they received threatening messages but to no avail. “She said she didn’t feel Nathan was a threat,” Linda said. “She said he was all talk.”
Court will resume on Tuesday, follow the holiday. The families of the victims said that they hope they will have the chance to testify next week and that this second trial will end swiftly. Burris, however has reserved the right to call back the three witnesses from today, so it’s not clear how quickly this trial will end.
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