The family of double-murder victims Maria and Benison Tran, who were fatally shot in their Dublin home in September 2022, were protesting Wednesday over a reduced charging decision by Alameda County District Attorney Pamela Price.

On Wednesday, at a preliminary hearing in the case in Dublin, prosecutors moved to drop the enhancements and special circumstances attached to the double murder charges, thereby opening up the possibility of a reduced sentence and parole for the defendant, if he is convicted.

The defendant going to trial in the 2022 murder is former Alameda County Deputy Sheriff Devin Williams. As we learned shortly after the shooting occurred, Williams was allegedly conducting an affair with the married Maria Tran, and his mother told the media that he was "blinded by love" in committing this crime. We also learned that Williams did not exactly pass his psych exam to become a sheriff's deputy, but the department hired him anyway.

While this may be clarified at trial, it also appeared that Williams had met Tran at her workplace, which is John George Psychiatric Hospital in San Leandro, and it's not clear whether he had been a patient there.

Williams, who pleaded not guilty in the case, is alleged to have come to the Trans' residence more than once between August and September of 2022. And on the night of September 6, 2022, he allegedly entered the home and used his service revolver to kill Maria and Benison Tran, which occurred in the presence of their son and Maria's mother and brother, who were visiting.

The double murder charges and special circumstances, if Williams were convicted, would have guaranteed a sentence of life without parole. But Price, who has made it clear in the past that she is not a fan of enhancements, announced that those enhancements would be dropped.

"This is a travesty of justice," says an attorney for the victims' family, Christopher Dolan, in a statement. "The DA’s decision to drop the maximum penalty is an insult to the families of Benison and Maria."

Dolan suggests that Price's decision "gives the strong appearance of a sweetheart deal with law enforcement, a force which DA Price has struggled to develop a good working relationship." He points to other cases, like the recent fatal shooting of an Oakland police officer, where her office has left special circumstances charges in place for the suspects.

"District Attorney Price has charged, and prosecuted, enhancements/special circumstances in cased where members of law enforcement have been killed yet when a Deputy Sheriff commits murder in cold blood, he is given a reprieve," Dolan says.

Maria Tran's sister, Jennie Wong, spoke at the protest Wednesday outside a courthouse in Dublin. "Mr. Williams used his privilege as an officer of the law to premeditate the murder of Benison and Maria," Wong said. "Yet he didn’t just murder my sister Maria, Mr. Williams executed her, point blank, with his service weapon given to him by the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department."

"District Attorney Pamela Price's reputation precedes her," Wong added. "She is not just soft on crime; she is weak when it comes to protecting our community... We are left with the unpalatable impression that this action, dropping the enhancements, is a peace offering to law enforcement."

The Chronicle reported from the courtroom today that the judge in the case, Judge Paul Delucchi, has initially denied prosecutors' request to drop the special circumstances. But, Delucchi told prosecutor Ted McGarvey, "I understand where you're coming from," and it remained a possibility that Delucchi could grant the motion by the end of the preliminary hearing in the case.

SFist will update this story when we learn more about Williams' trial schedule, or if Price's office issues any statement about the charging decision. The preliminary hearing is scheduled to continue on Thursday.

Public outrage over the possibility of enhancements being dropped in another high-profile case in the county, the freeway shooting of toddler Jasper Wu, led Price to issue a somber public video message last spring. Since then, a recall campaign to remove Price from office has taken shape, and signatures are under review to put the recall on the November ballot.

Previously: More Details Emerge About Shocking Double Homicide In Which Sheriff's Deputy Is the Sole Suspect

Photo by Christopher Dolan