A state appeals court in San Francisco today upheld a quadruple murder conviction and sentence of life in prison without parole for an Oakland man who took part in a gang crime spree in 2002 and 2003. Demarcus Ralls, 24, was a member of a group that called itself the “Nut Cases.” The gang members, most of whom were related to one another, carried out a series of murders, shootings and robberies in Oakland between October 2002 and January 2003. Police said after gang members were arrested that they appeared to engage in the shootings and robberies partly for thrills as well as to gain money. In a tape-recorded interview with police after he was arrested in January 2003, Ralls, then 18, told police that what Nut Case members do is to “kill people” and that they killed “just to be doing stuff” even if no money was to be found, according to the court ruling. The taped recording was allowed as evidence at Ralls’ trial in Alameda County Superior Court in 2006 because he waived his right to have a lawyer present during the interview. Ralls, the first to go on trial, was convicted of 25 violent crimes, including three first-degree murders, one second-degree murder, two attempted murders, 17 robberies and attempted robberies, kidnapping and shooting into an inhabited dwelling. Prosecutors sought a death penalty for Ralls, but the jury in the case opted for life in prison without parole. A three-judge panel of the Court of Appeal unanimously rejected Ralls’ claims there were errors in jury instructions at his trial. Ralls’ lawyer in the appeal, Mark Greenberg, said Ralls will appeal to the California Supreme Court. Eight other group members, including three of Ralls’ half-brothers, a cousin and a sister-in-law, eventually were convicted or pleaded guilty to various crimes.
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