General Crime

Oakland Prosecutor Asks Jury To Convict Jabrie Bennett And Andre Smith Of Murder for the shooting of Kenneth Lee Seets

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A prosecutor is asking a jury to convict two 19-year-old men of murder for a shooting outside a BART station in San Leandro last year that claimed the life of a 50-year-old innocent bystander who was waiting for a bus.

Prosecutor Mark Melton told jurors in his closing argument that Jabrie Bennett and Andre Smith are both responsible for the death of Kenneth Lee Seets of Fremont outside the Bay Fair BART station at about 12:20 p.m. on Jan. 19, 2013, because they both were armed with guns and acted with reckless disregard for human life.

Melton said Smith provoked the shooting by reaching for his gun and walking toward Bennett after his group of friends got into an argument with Bennett’s friends and Bennett is directly responsible for Seets’ death because one of the 10 shots he fired in response to Smith’s actions struck and killed Seets.

The two groups of young people didn’t know each other before the shooting, according to testimony in the case.

However, Bennett’s lawyer, William Locke, told jurors today that Bennett acted in self-defense because “Smith provoked a fear in Bennett that Bennett responded to.”

Bennett admitted on the witness stand last week that he fired the shot that killed Seets but said he didn’t intend to kill Seets and his death was an accident.

Locke said Bennett didn’t play any role in the heated argument that led to the shooting, pointing to evidence that Bennett’s girlfriend and Smith’s brother were the main antagonists in the war of words.

The defense lawyer said it would be “profoundly unfair” for jurors to hold Bennett responsible for the role his girlfriend may have played in sparking the shooting.

Smith’s lawyer, Barbara Thomas, will present her closing argument on Thursday morning. In her opening statement in January, Thomas said Smith didn’t cause or escalate the confrontation.

Melton, who gave the first part of his closing argument Tuesday afternoon, is expected to deliver his rebuttal argument Thursday afternoon.

Jurors aren’t expected to begin deliberating until late Thursday or next week.

In addition to the murder charge for Seets’ death, Bennett faces an attempted murder charge for allegedly firing 11 shots at another teen two days before the incident at the BART station. One of the shots struck and injured the other teen but he survived.

Melton alleges that Bennett used the same .22-caliber semi-automatic rifle in both incidents but Locke said that type of gun is less dangerous than other guns.

Locke told jurors that a .22-caliber bullet is “the smallest caliber bullet that’s commercially available” and that a .22-caliber gun “is not the weapon of choice if you’re trying to kill someone.”

But he admitted that a .22-caliber rifle can still kill someone and “unfortunately it pierced his (Seets’) heart and killed him.”

Locke said Seets “was very unlucky.”

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