Even as the future of California's death penalty hangs on two November ballot measures, a judge ruled Wednesday that the man convicted of a high-profile double murder in the East Bay should be executed for his crimes.
As previously reported, 25-year-old Darnell Williams was convicted in Alameda County Superior Court this past May for the deaths of two people: 8-year-old Alaysha Carradine in Oakland on July 17, 2013 and 22-year-old Anthony Medearis in Berkeley two months later.
According to prosecutors, Carradine was killed when Williams "fired at least 13 shots into an apartment in the 3400 block of Wilson Avenue in Oakland in retaliation for the fatal shooting of his close friend, 26-year-old Jermaine Davis, in Berkeley about five hours earlier," KRON 4 reports.
The gunfire "also injured and nearly killed a 7-year-old girl, a 4-year-old boy and their 63-year-old grandmother," all of whom were inside the home of the girlfriend of Antiown York, the man Williams believed had killed Davis. (York was eventually charged with that crime, but the case was dismissed due to the unavailability of a key witness.)
Prosecutors say that two months later, Williams "fatally shot Medearis in the back as Medearis was running away from him because he thought Medearis was a snitch" as well as "because he wanted to rob him because he had run out of money to buy guns, drugs and jewelry."
On May 6, a jury found Williams guilty of two counts of first-degree murder, three counts of premeditated attempted murder and the special circumstance of lying in wait for the Oakland shooting, the special circumstance of murdering Medearis during the course of an attempted robbery and the special circumstance of committing multiple murders. On June 2, a jury recommended the death penalty for Williams over life in prison without the possibility of parole.
On Wednesday, Judge Jeffrey Horner concurred with that jury's decision, describing Williams' acts as "an orgy of revenge, slaughter and murder," ABC 7 reports.
“The overwhelming weight of the evidence and the credibility and believability of the prosecution’s witnesses supports the jury’s verdict," Horner said, citing "the evidence and the law.”
Noting that Williams has previously been involved in a number of violent confrontations while in prison, Horner says that death is the only way to ensure that Williams could not kill again, sayng “When this defendant is executed he will no longer be a threat to anyone in any community.”
Reactions to the judge's decision from the victim's families were mixed. Carridine's grandmother told KRON 4 that “My thoughts today is that it’s not over he’s still alive and even though it won’t bring My LadyBug back I’m ready to see the day that he’s no longer breathing...That way he’ll never hurt anyone again.”
Speaking with ABC 7, however, the aunt of Anthony Medearis said she'd hoped Williams would get life, instead, saying that "on death row you just sit, it's like you're comfortable."
"With life you have to worry, you have to look behind your back, you have to worry about everything."
And death row is likely where Williams will spend the foreseeable future, as California's death penalty has been on hold since January of 2006, when Clarence Ray Allen was executed in San Quentin for the murders of three people. Shortly thereafter, a federal judge put a stop to executions in the state over issues with the three-drug lethal injection protocol, issues that have still yet to be resolved.
Meanwhile, in November voters will decide on two propositions new relevant to Williams' interests: Proposition 62 would repeal the state's death penalty and make life without the possibility of parole the maximum punishment for murder. Then there's Proposition 66, which supports changing the procedures governing state court appeals and petitions that challenge death penalty convictions and sentences, making it faster and easier for states to get to the execution phase of the sentence.
According to a Field Poll released today, the repeal bill is "narrowly supported by likely voters," with 48 percent of likely voters saying they intend to vote yes, 37 percent saying no, and 15 percent still undecided. Poll respondents appeared less sure about the proposal to speed up the process, with 35 percent saying they will vote yes, 23 percent saying they will vote no, and a whopping 42 percent saying that they are undecided.
Previously: Arrests Made In Slaying Of 8-Year-Old Oakland Girl
22-Year-Old Oakland Man To Stand Trial In Murder Of 8-Year-Old At Sleepover
Key Witness Takes Stand In Trial Of Man Accused In 2013 Killing Of 8-Year-Old Girl In Oakland
25-Year-Old Darnell Williams Found Guilty In Sleepover Murder Of Young Oakland Girl