OAKLAND (BCN) — In an emotional scene marked by tears, jurors convicted three men guilty of second-degree murder for a gun battle in West Oakland two years ago that claimed the life of a 30-year-old mother of three children who was an innocent bystander.
The jury’s verdict at the end of four days of deliberations means that defendants Anthony Sims, 21, and Alex Davis, 27, face state prison terms of 40 years to life and Michael Stills, 23, faces 16 years to life for the
shooting death of Chyemil Pierce in the 2800 block of Chestnut Street at about 4:45 p.m. on March 9, 2015.
Jurors are still deadlocked over the fate of a fourth defendant, Jerry Harbin, 32, and on Monday they resume their deliberations over the murder charge he faces.
Pierce’s relatives, including her mother, sister, brother and aunt, shed tears when the verdicts were announced and so did at least five of the jurors.
Sims put his head down on the defense table in an apparent indication of despondency and Stills openly sobbed. Harbin, a bigger and older man who was seated next to Stills, put his arm around him to try to
Alameda County prosecutor Butch Ford told jurors in his closing argument in the case last week that the four men should be convicted of murder because they all acted with conscious disregard for human life,
Ford said, “All of them are responsible to this gun battle” even though they had different levels of involvement.
Ford said the four defendants and two others who are expected to stand trial later this year, 31-year-old Shelton McDaniels, and 18-year-old Julian Ambrose, armed themselves with guns before the shootout, which occurred after a large group of women got into a fight, and intended to shoot.
The prosecutor alleged that Harbin escalated the situation by pushing one of the female combatants, 38-year-old Joneria Reed, to the ground and interjecting himself into the women’s fight.
Ford said Reed was angry that Harbin had pushed her down and called her son, 22-year-old Dijon Ward, to ask him to come and several others to the scene to back her up.
He said a shootout eventually ensued between Harbin and his associates from a West Oakland group known as “3rd World,” which included McDaniels, Davis and Stills, and Ward and his associates from another West Oakland group known as “The Bottoms,” which included Sims and Ambrose.
One of the dozens of bullets that were fired in the gunfight struck Pierce in the right side of the back of her head and killed her, Ford said, describing her as “collateral damage” in “a war zone.”
Pierce, who worked as a human resources specialist at Kaiser Permanente, wasn’t involved in the argument and fight but had come to the area to bring two of her three children back to the home in the neighborhood where her family had lived for nearly 50 years, Ford said.
Defense lawyers for Harbin, Davis, Stills and Sims tried to minimize their responsibility for the shooting.
Davis’ lawyer, Darryl Billups, alleged that Sims and Ambrose bear the most responsibility for Pierce’s death because they fired first and said the most Davis should be convicted of is manslaughter.
Stills’ lawyer, David Bryden, said Stills shouldn’t be convicted of murder because he didn’t fire any shots and he acted under duress in the midst of the barrage of bullets when he handed an assault rifle to McDaniels.
Harbin’s lawyer, Ted Johnson, said Harbin should be found not guilty of murder because he fired shots in self-defense only after shots were fired at him.
Sims’ lawyer, William DuBois, told jurors that Sims should only be convicted of manslaughter because there’s no evidence he intended to kill anyone.
DuBois alleged that Davis and McDaniels are the ones most responsible for Pierce’s death because they fired at Sims and Ambrose while Sims and Ambrose were trying to run away from them.
But Ford said Harbin, Davis, Stills and Sims should all be convicted of murder because they all knew that the shootout would occur and fired guns or helped others possess and fire guns.
Sims and Davis face longer prison terms than Stills because in addition of being convicted of second-degree murder they were convicted of the serious enhancement of causing Pierce’s death by personally discharging a firearm.
After jurors left court late Thursday Johnson asked Alameda County Superior Court Judge Kevin Murphy to declare a mistrial on the murder charge against Johnson because at least four jurors indicated they believe he’s not guilty.
But Murphy denied Johnson’s motion, saying Thursday was the first time that jurors indicated they have any issues and he thinks further deliberations could be useful.
Ford said after the verdicts were announced that, “I’m glad for Chyemil Pierce’s family but there’s still work to be done,” referring to the continuing deliberations for Harbin and the upcoming trial of McDaniels and
Bryden, Stills’ attorney, said, “I feel bad for my client and I don’t agree with the jury’s verdict. I don’t think he (Stills) had any malice and he didn’t fire any shots.”
Billups said he still thinks the most Davis should have been convicted of is manslaughter.
Stating the Davis didn’t initiate the shooting, Billups said, “When people shoot, the people they’re shooting at ought to be able to shoot back.”
Reed and Ward had been scheduled to stand trial with Harbin, Davis, Stills and Sims but Reed pleaded no contest last month to second-degree murder for her role in the case and testified against them.
Reed’s plea agreement calls for her second-degree murder conviction to be reduced to voluntary manslaughter and for her to be sentenced to six years in custody if a judge determines that her testimony in
the case was truthful.
Ward pleaded no contest to a felony count of being an accessory after the fact for hiding a gun that one of the suspects allegedly used in the shooting.
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