OAKLAND (CBS SF) — An Oakland man was ordered to stand trial Wednesday on a charge that he murdered a man who allegedly was stalking his sister.
The motive for Donald Tremayne Britton, 38, to fatally shoot 50-year-old Leo Dunson in the 2900 block of High Street on June 4, 2011, is that Britton was trying “to protect his sister from the person who had been stalking her,” prosecutor Chris Cavagnaro said at the end of a preliminary hearing that spanned parts of two days.
Alameda County Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Horner said the prosecution produced sufficient evidence to have Britton stand trial on the murder charge as well as a charge that he was a convicted felon in possession of a firearm.
Oakland police Sgt. Sean Fleming testified that Britton’s sister, Chantelle Britton, told police in an interview last Aug. 3 that Dunson lived near her and had been stalking her and “felt like her life was in danger.”
Fleming said Chantelle Britton told police that on June 4, 2011, “she had called her brother to come down and talk to Dunson.”
Chantelle Britton said that when her brother arrived she pointed at Dunson and he gave her a hug and then she saw the two men standing about one to two feet apart, according to Fleming.
She then turned away but about 5 to 10 seconds later she heard one or two gunshots, Fleming testified.
Chantelle Britton told police that when she saw her brother at a relative’s house in West Oakland later that day she asked him why he carried out the shooting and he replied, “You shouldn’t have to deal with that, you’re my little sister,” Fleming said.
Chantelle Britton said in the interview that her brother had dreadlocks at the time of the shooting but when she saw him later that day he had cut them in an apparent attempt to alter his appearance.
Donald Britton remained at large until last Aug. 1, when he was arrested at his job at a Walmart store in Carson City, Nev.
Britton’s lawyer, Kathleen Guneratne, told Judge Horner that he shouldn’t give much consideration to Chantelle Britton’s statement to police because she wasn’t available to testify at the preliminary hearing and couldn’t be cross-examined.
Guneratne said there was a murder warrant for Chantelle Britton when she was interviewed and if she had testified she would have faced “Fifth Amendment issues” about not incriminating herself because if her statement to police is true she could be considered an accessory to murder.
Guneratne also said the evidence that Donald Britton is the person who fatally shot Dunson is “weak” because two witnesses who said they thought he was the shooter said they weren’t absolutely certain of that.
Cavagnaro agreed that “the real question is the identity” of the shooter but he said strong circumstantial evidence points to Donald Britton.
Horner said the credibility of the witnesses will be a key factor when the case goes to trial but he said it will be up to a jury to make that judgment.
He said, “I’m satisfied that the burden of proof has been met” to have Dunson stand trial.
Dunson is scheduled to return to court on Jan. 24 to be arraigned for a second time.
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