James Mitchell, son of the late Mitchell Brothers porn empire co-founder Jim Mitchell, took the stand in his own trial yesterday for the murder of his 29-year-old girlfriend, Danielle Keller. Mitchell is accused of clubbing Keller to death with a baseball bat in her backyard in July, 2009, and kidnapping their baby, on the day of their baby's first birthday. He caused a bit of shock in the Marin County courtroom, and not a little bit of heartache for the victim's family, when he told a story of arriving at Keller's home and hearing her cry for help, then encountering two men in her side yard, fighting with them, and forcibly having to prevent one of them from kidnapping the baby. Mind you, Keller had a restraining order against Mitchell at the time, and most of the trial has centered on eyewitness accounts of neighbors who saw Mitchell beating Keller with a metal baseball bat while she lay face down in the grass.

Longtime S.F. residents likely recall the case of Mitchell's father Jim, who was convicted of shooting and killing his brother Artie in 1991 and served a three-year prison term.

Mitchell, who lived in Pittsburg and had been running his father and uncle's porn empire prior to his arrest, testified that he never saw Keller's bloodied body, and that he fled in a car with his child without calling police. Mitchell had Keller's blood on his pants, however, and he said he can't answer to how it got there. Asked why he didn't call police, Mitchell replied that he was afraid to because of previous tussles over violating the restraining order.

Mitchell's own family members testified that he told them of his plans to flee to Mexico with the baby. Asked why this was the first time anyone had heard this story of an attack by two strange men, Mitchell's attorney replied, "Because we hadn't had a trial before." The defense is expected to rest today.

[Marin IJ]