General Crime

Damonte Starks Convicted of Murdering William Ward in Oakland

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An Oakland teen has been convicted of first-degree murder for killing another teen in a drive-by shooting in East Oakland in June 2013. Jurors deliberated for two days before announcing their verdict late Wednesday afternoon against 19-year-old Damonte Starks for the death of William Ward, 19, in the 8300 block of Hillside Street, near Ward’s home, at about 3:15 p.m. on June 27, 2013.

In addition to first-degree murder, jurors convicted Starks of shooting from a motor vehicle. Starks faces a lengthy state prison term when he’s sentenced by Alameda County Superior Court Judge Gloria Rhynes on Feb. 5. Prosecutor Robert Graff told jurors in his closing argument on Monday that all of the testimony and physical evidence in the case indicates that Starks is the person who killed Ward, who was struck by three bullets, one each in the neck, shoulder and buttocks. Graff said, “The puzzle pieces fit.

They all point at the defendant (Starks).” Graff said a woman who lives in the neighborhood where the incident occurred identified Starks as the shooter and another witness told police that Starks called him shortly after the shooting to brag that he had killed Ward.

A third witness who was in custody with Starks secretly recorded Starks saying “multiple times” that he killed Ward, Graff said. The prosecutor said one of the witnesses told authorities that Starks said the reason he killed Ward is that Ward had pistol-whipped his cousin. But defense attorney Darryl Stallworth called the evidence in the case questionable.

Stallworth said the woman who identified Starks as the shooter is unreliable because she was 65 feet away from the shooting scene and also suffers from blackouts. Stallworth also said the witness who told police that Starks had bragged about killing Ward isn’t believable because he’s been convicted of armed robbery six times and was biased against Starks because he was a friend of Ward’s.

In addition, Stallworth said he believes that Ward was armed with a gun when he was shot and whoever shot him acted in self-defense because Ward opened fire first. But Graff insisted that Starks “intended the kill” and “the facts support first-degree murder.” Graff said the woman who identified Starks as the shooter is credible because “she had no incentive to help” Ward by testifying against Starks. Graff said that’s because the woman told police that she didn’t like Ward because “he brought crime and disturbance to the neighborhood.” The woman “was scared to be in court but told the truth because she said that’s what she would want for herself” if she were the victim of a crime, Graff said.

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