OAKLAND (CBS SF) – A prosecutor told jurors Monday that he will ask them to recommend the death penalty for an Oakland man whom they recently convicted of three counts of first-degree murder for killing three people in East Oakland seven years ago and leaving a fourth person seriously wounded.
In his opening statement in the penalty phase of the trial of 38-year-old David Mills for a shooting in the 9900 block of St. Elmo Drive a few minutes before midnight on March 10, 2005, prosecutor Jim Meehan said the death penalty is a punishment Mills “so richly deserves” because of the horrific nature of the crime and the pain it has caused the victims’ families.
Meehan said in his closing argument in the guilt phase of Mills’ trial last month that Mills shot the victims because of a dispute over a gun.
Mills is facing a penalty phase in which jurors will choose between recommending either the death penalty or life in prison without the possibility of parole because he was convicted of the special circumstance of committing multiple murders.
In addition, Mills was convicted of one count of premeditated attempted murder and two counts of animal cruelty because one pit bull was killed in the shooting and another was wounded.
The people killed in the shooting were James Lee Martin, 28, of Hayward, Dale Griffin, 36, of San Pablo, and Rebecca Martinez, 22, of Oakland.
Martinez’s sister, Elizabeth Martinez, now 33, was wounded but survived and was the prosecution’s star witness in the trial, testifying that Mills was the man who shot her and the other victims.
Jurors learned for the first time today that Mills has also been convicted of killing a fourth person, as Meehan told them Mills previously pleaded no contest to killing 28-year-old Troy Gardner in the 1800 block of 88th Avenue in Oakland at 3:15 a.m. on Jan. 1, 1997.
Meehan said Mills initially was charged with murder in connection with Gardner’s death but that prosecutors accepted his plea to involuntary manslaughter when a witness who had identified Mills as the shooter recanted his testimony after his mother’s life was threatened.
William Linehan, one of two attorneys who represent Mills, told jurors that he will present evidence that won’t excuse or justify Mills’ crimes but will mitigate them and persuade them to recommend life in prison instead of the death penalty.
Linehan said Mills “was born into chaos” because his mother was a drug addict and his father was schizophrenic, and that they moved from motel to motel.
He said Mills “was born into a life with no moral compass” and that it was “inevitable that he took the wrong path.”
Mills chose not to be present in court for the penalty phase of his trial, and Linehan told jurors that they shouldn’t speculate on the reason for that.
But he told them he thinks the main reason Mills chose not to appear in court is that he’s upset that the defense plans to put his parents on the witness stand to testify about the circumstances of his upbringing.
Linehan said, “He doesn’t want to blame them for what happened in his life and I don’t either but I want to explain the horrendous life he has led.”
Mills’ case marks the first time in three years in which the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office is seeking the death penalty. It isn’t pursuing the death penalty in any other pending cases.
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