A 27-year-old man from Oakland, representing himself in a case involving the murder of his ex-girlfriend, has spent a fair bit of time shouting profanities and slurs at the prosecutor and judge, and generally interrupting the proceedings. Now the judge has declared a mistrial.
It's kind of astonishing that the trial went on as long as it did — and maybe that is a testament to the patience of Contra Costa County Judge Charles “Ben” Burch. As the East Bay Times reported two weeks ago, on the first day of the trial, defendant Ramello D. Randle interrupted prosecutor Kevin Bell's opening statement, making comments to the jury about his innocence.
At the time, Judge Burch reprimanded Randle, telling him he could make his "editorial comments" when it was his turn to give an opening statement — and Randle replied that he would be giving an opening statement until after the prosecution had rested its case.
Fast-forward to this week, and as the East Bay Times reports, things descended into "pandemonium" on Tuesday after Randle called his first defense witness, his mother.
Randle is accused of the murder of 24-year-old Jonaye Lahkel Bridges, his ex-girlfriend and the mother of his child, outside an Antioch 7-11 on July 27, 2020. Bridges was sitting in a car at the time with a male companion who was also shot but only received minor injuries.
The prosecution alleges that Randle and co-defendant Christopher Slaughter, 41, drove to the 7-11 from Oakland after Randle placed a GPS tracking device on Bridges's car. A text message between Randle and Slaughter about the tracking device is part of the evidence against him — along with a palm print authorities say they found on the gun used in the murder.
Randle was arrested immediately after the murder, and as KPIX reported at the time, when police searched his Oakland home, they found a cache of 20 weapons, including several assault rifles.
Randle insists that Slaughter, who took a plea deal and will serve 15 years for his role in the murder, was the trigger man, and this has been the theme of most of his outbursts in the courtroom, per the East Bay Times. There is evidence to suggest that the gun used in the murder was given to Randle by Slaughter.
"You’re trying to give him immunity for killing my child’s mother," Randle yelled in court, referring to Slaughter, per the East Bay Times. “Let all his friends fucking frame me."
Randle also took issue with Bell questioning his mother during cross-examination Tuesday, reportedly saying to his mother, "Don’t answer shit this [gay slur] has to say then." Randle's mother testified to Randle's alibi, that he was home with family all night the night of Bridges's murder, but Bell questioned her memory of the night. A the East Bay Times reports, Randle said in court of Bell, "He’s trying to make it seem like you’re lying. You can’t tell me what the fuck I was doing with my family."
Judge Burch ultimately told jurors to leave the courtroom Tuesday and he excoriated Randle once again. Per the East Bay Times, Burch said, "the next time there’s an outburst like the one you just did in front of this jury, there’s going to be a mistrial," and he said Randle would be disqualified from ever representing himself in court. Burch also reportedly said that Randle may think he had Burch "over a barrel because we’re so far into this trial," but added, "We’ve put up with enough of your antics in this courtroom."
On Wednesday, Burch declared the mistrial anyway, opting not to wait for any future outbursts from Randle. And Burch revoked Randle's "pro per" status, or the ability to serve as his own attorney. Now a new trial date will be set, and as the East Bay Times writes, "If no local attorneys volunteer for the job [to represent Randle], it is likely someone will be plucked from the county’s conflicts panel."
Better call Saul.
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