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An Oakland man was convicted today of three counts of first-degree murder for firing a barrage of 10 shots in East Oakland seven years ago that left three people dead and a fourth person seriously wounded. Jurors deliberated for only two days before announcing their verdict against David Mills, 37, for the shooting in the 9900 block of St. Elmo Drive a few minutes before midnight on March 10, 2005.
Mills looked straight ahead and didn’t show any emotion when the verdict was announced at a hearing guarded by six bailiffs, but several of the victims’ family members sobbed, including one family member who was so emotional that she had to be helped from the courtroom. Prosecutor Jim Meehan told jurors in his closing argument last week that Mills shot the victims because of a dispute over a gun. Jurors also found that Mills committed multiple murders, which means that he will now face a separate penalty phase beginning on July 9 in which the same jurors will choose between recommending either the death penalty or life in prison without the possibility of parole.
In addition, he was convicted of one count of premeditated attempted murder and two counts of animal cruelty because one pit bull was killed in the shooting and another was wounded. Mills has now been convicted of killing a total of four people because he previously pleaded no contest for killing 28-year-old Troy Gardner in the 1800 block of 88th Avenue in Oakland at 3:15 a.m. on Jan. 1, 1997. Mills initially was charged with murder in connection with Gardner’s death but prosecutors accepted his plea to involuntary manslaughter after a witness recanted his original statement to police.
William Linehan, one of two attorneys who represent Mills, said in his closing argument that Mills should be found not guilty because he wasn’t at the scene of the crime and the prosecution’s key witness, a shooting survivor who identified Mills as the shooter, is unreliable. Linehan said most of the witnesses aren’t credible because nearly everyone involved in the case, including Mills, whose nickname is “Shulk,” is a convicted felon, a drug user and a drug dealer.
Killed in the shooting were James Lee Martin, 28, of Hayward, Dale Griffin, 36, of San Pablo, and Rebecca Martinez, 22, of Oakland. Martinez’s sister, Elizabeth Martinez, now 33, was wounded but survived and was the prosecution’s star witness, testifying that Mills was the man who shot her and the other victims. Meehan admitted to jurors that Martinez has been a drug addict for more than 20 years and “has a lot of baggage.” But he said he thinks her identification of Mills as the shooter is reliable because she knew him well and her testimony is corroborated by other evidence in the case.
Meehan said among that evidence is the fact that the murder weapon was found on Mills only nine hours after the shooting and the murders occurred outside Mills’ father’s home, which he said “was not a random location.” In providing the background for the shooting, Meehan said Rebecca Martinez and her boyfriend, Alex “Mousey” Lomas, were dealing drugs out of their home at 7868 MacArthur Blvd. in Oakland and Mills was hanging out there and providing security.
Meehan said a conflict developed after Mills took a gun that belonged to Lomas and Lomas wanted it back. He said Rebecca Martinez, Elizabeth Martinez, Martin and Griffin set up a meeting with Mills the night of March 10, 2005, at which Mills had said he would turn over the gun that belonged to Lomas. Lomas didn’t participate in the meeting because he was in jail for attempted petty theft at a Wal-Mart store in San Leandro and for possession of drugs and a firearm, according to Meehan. But instead of handing over the gun, Mills opened fire on the victims in the car they used to drive over to the meeting spot, Meehan said.
Linehan alleged that Lomas tried to pin the killings on Mills because he knew that his gun was used in the shooting and he was the most likely suspect at the time. Linehan said Lomas had feuded with the victims in the case and suggested that although Lomas was in custody at the time of the shooting he might have ordered someone else to carry it out. But Meehan said, “There’s no evidence that anyone other than David Mills committed this crime” and told jurors, “It’s just absurd to the extreme” to suggest that Lomas ordered the shooting.
Linehan said Mills couldn’t have committed the crime because he wasn’t at the shooting scene and instead was at a drug and alcohol party at a motel in Castro Valley. But Meehan said Mills’ alibi witnesses, who included his wife, are unreliable and can’t be believed. Linehan refused to comment on the verdict today. William DuBois, Mills’ other attorney, said he wasn’t surprised that Mills was found guilty, explaining that he thinks the jury might have been influenced by the fact that Mills didn’t testify during his trial, even though Mills wasn’t required to testify and jurors were instructed not to be influenced by his decision not to testify.
Mills’ case marks the first time in three years in which the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office is seeking the death penalty. It isn’t pursuing the death penalty in any other pending cases.
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