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Blacknell Trial

Blacknell sentenced to life without parole for 2009 crime spree

Joe “Fatter” Blacknell III was sentenced to life in prison plus more than 200 years without possibility of parole for the March 2009 murder of an up-and-coming East Bay rap artist and a September 2009 shooting and carjacking spree in Richmond and Oakland. Blacknell, now 21, was arrested after a brief foot pursuit with Richmond Police at the tail-end of the September 2009 crime spree. He was 18 at the time, and police and District Attorney Office officials say he…

Jailhouse interview with Joe ‘Fatter’ Blacknell, who faces life in prison for ’09 slaying

How do you say hello to a convicted murderer? The thought darted through my head as I strode through the Martinez Courthouse jail facility’s winding corridors of concrete and steel. In moments I would be face-to-face—albeit divided by two-inch thick Plexiglas—with Joe Blacknell III, the young man described by police and District Attorney’s Office officials as one of the most violent offenders in Richmond’s history. I opened the steel door and there he was. His fist was pressed against the…

Prosecutor reflects on trial, conviction of Joe ‘Fatter’ Blacknell in Richmond gang case

As the jury’s deliberation dragged into a second week, the pressure mounted. Always unflappable in the courtroom, prosecuting attorney Derek Butts nevertheless found himself wracked with inner anxiety. “Those two weeks were brutal,” Butts said. For more than a month in the trial of Joe Blacknell III, Butts’ scratchy monotone had never wavered. Hostile witnesses interrupted him and a spirited public defender contested him at every turn. He led the jury in an examination of grisly evidence, including autopsy photos…

Blacknell convicted in murder of Marcus Russell, other counts

Joe Blacknell III was found guilty Thursday of 20 felony counts, including the first degree murder of Marcus Russell in 2009. Jurors reached their decision after more than eight days of deliberations. Blacknell, 21, was convicted on 20 out of 22 felonies with which he was charged. He was found not guilty on two counts of attempted murder stemming from the September 13, 2009, shooting of Elliot Lawson and Devonte Bernstein, who were wounded in a drive-by shooting at the…

Closing arguments recount Richmond crime spree, differ on whether Blacknell responsible

After more than a month of proceedings, one of Richmond’s biggest murder trials in years is in the jury’s hands. Closing arguments Thursday painted two starkly different pictures of the evidence against Joe Blacknell III. The 21-year-old south Richmond native is accused of 22 felonies, including the March 2009 murder of rap artist Marcus Russell, and a daylong spree of shootings and carjackings six months later. Deputy District Attorney Derek Butts, who has called more than 50 witnesses since the…

Blacknell’s mother takes stand in Richmond murder case

Joe Blacknell III’s mother took the stand in his defense Wednesday, testifying that her son is a hip-hop fan and father of three, and not a violent gang member who killed one man and wounded at least four others in 2009, as police and prosecutors allege. “You guys make him out to be this,” said Celeste Sipp, in response to Deputy District Attorney Derek Butts’ questions about photos that appear to show Blacknell throwing gang signs. “I don’t know him…

Blacknell defense opens case, focuses on science and inconsistent witnesses

On the first day of witness testimony for the defense, public defender Diana Garrido spent several hours focused on what may be the prosecution’s biggest weaknesses in its case against Joe Blacknell III: shaky witnesses and inconclusive scientific evidence. The prosecution’s star witness, a woman shot and wounded while driving with murder victim Marcus Russell, told a detective on the day of the shooting – and Russell’s friend days later – that she ducked when gunfire erupted and could not…

Richmond detective implicates Blacknell in murders for which he is not charged

Analysis of shell casings suggests a link between four killings in Oakland and Richmond and many of the 22 felonies for which Joe Blacknell III is on trial, Richmond Police Det. Christopher Llamas testified Thursday. The revelation came after weeks of testimony in the closely-watched case. Blacknell, now 21, is charged with shooting and killing Marcus Russell on March 10, 2009 and wounding four people on September 13 that same year. Blacknell also faces more than a dozen other charges,…

Richmond gang detective alleges Blacknell built reputation for violence

Throughout most of 2009, neighborhood cliques of mostly teens and young adults were locked in a back-and-forth feud, intensified by ambitions for respect and reprisal. Mixed with the hot tempers and youthful indiscretions, social networking sites had become bulletin boards for taunts, and a burgeoning hop-hop video scene on YouTube bristled with boasts and threats. Add to that, the kids had military-grade weapons. “Assault weapons, pistols, [high-capacity] magazines, laser sightings,” said Detective Christopher Llamas. “In 2009, we had 350-plus shootings”…

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