After an unexpected series of events, an Alameda County Superior Court judge offered to lend his own clean underwear, trousers and socks to a defendant standing trial for multiple murders.
Testimony was slated to resume at 9:30 Monday morning in the Darnell Williams Jr. case, but was postponed for what initially were unknown reasons. The jurors all were in attendance on a separate floor but never came down to the courtroom.
At 11:15 a.m., Judge Jeffrey Horner went on the record with prosecutor John Brouhard and defense attorneys Darryl Billups and Deborah Levy. Defendant Williams was not present.
Read complete coverage of the case.
Horner then summarized what had taken place earlier in the day. He said deputies had reported several issues that had come up with Williams since the weekend.
First, deputies had tried to move Williams from Santa Rita Jail in Dublin to the North County jail in Oakland, but he told them he did not want that. Billups said his client reported that the move would cause him “nothing but trouble,” either with inmates or deputies, but did not elaborate.
Williams then told the deputies over the weekend that he was suicidal. Under sheriff’s office protocol, he was taken to a separate facility and given a different set of clothing.
Monday morning, Williams refused to come to court, the judge said, because he had not had a chance to shower and did not have clean underwear or socks. He told the deputies, Horner reported, that he “would fight” if they forced him to come to court.
Horner said he was concerned about that because it could lead to injury to Williams or deputies that would further delay proceedings.
Brouhard said Williams was “attempting to manipulate” the presentation of evidence, and asked the judge to continue to hear testimony with or without Williams.
The testimony scheduled for Monday was the continuation of evidence presented by Britney Rogers, Williams’ former girlfriend, who has said he confessed to her about fatally shooting 8-year-old Alaysha Carradine at a sleepover in 2013. Rogers began her testimony Wednesday afternoon. Court recessed shortly before 4 p.m. Wednesday and had been slated to resume Monday morning.
Rogers is in protective custody because, said Brouhard, Williams had made threats to harm her or have his associates harm her if she talked about the case.
“The logistics of having her here in court are extensive,” Brouhard told the judge. Rogers now lives far out of the area, has other children she has to arrange care for, and is pregnant. Brouhard said her “security is always at risk” when others know when she will be coming to court. “There is a lot that goes into having Ms. Rogers here to complete her testimony today.”
Brouhard said Williams’ actions were “absolutely manipulation.” He said Williams has threatened suicide in the past to get his way.
“I find the timing of this troubling,” he told the judge. Brouhard said he worried, too, what the jury would make of the delay, and whether they might believe Rogers was refusing to cooperate.
The judge reported he had told the jury the delay was the result of needing to resolve an “issue of law” that had come up.
Brouhard said he found it ironic that he planned to play a wiretap recording Monday before the jury in which Williams reportedly tells Rogers, “‘I don’t care what you need, it’s what I want to do. It’s not about what you need’: That’s the same attitude he’s taking today.”
He also told the judge, of Williams’ actions, that “succumbing to his attempt to manipulate… is not going to solve our problems in the long run.”
Defense attorneys Billups and Levy said Williams hadn’t mentioned fighting to them, and simply wanted a chance to shower and brush his teeth before coming into court.
“As soon as he would have his clothes and underwear, he had no problem coming down,” Billups told the judge. The attorneys met with him Monday morning to get a sense of his mindset: “He wanted to contribute to the trial but under the circumstances he was not coming down.”
Levy disputed the assertion that Williams was trying to manipulate the process: “In my opinion, some of these concerns are valid. I would want to shower. I would want to brush my teeth. I would want undies… that’s another way to look at his concerns.”
Billups said Williams only “asked for one day” of delay in the proceedings, and Levy noted that, due to the quicker-than-anticipated pace of the trial, that shouldn’t necessarily be a big ask.
Judge Horner said he wasn’t having it, and that he believed the series of actions was a “deliberate attempt by Mr. Williams to manipulate this trial. And that offends me.”
Not only does Williams not have the right to make demands or ask for amenities, Horner continued, there was also no guarantee the defendant would cooperate Tuesday.
Williams “does not have the right to absent himself from the courtroom and force the court to follow his dictates,” Horner said. Rather than forcing Williams to come down, and risk injury, he said the testimony would simply move forward Monday afternoon without him.
“You can’t have it both ways,” the judge said. Even though Williams had said he did not waive his right to appear, Horner continued, “I interpret his actions… to be a waiver of his appearance.”
He told the defense attorneys to pass on the message to Williams to see if he would change his mind about joining the proceeding. Despite everything that had taken place, Horner added, Williams does have the right to appear at his trial and confront his accusers.
“If he wishes to see continued testimony of the witness on the witness stand, he simply needs to come down to court at 1:30,” Horner told the attorneys. “All he has to do is come down here.”
The judge then briefly left the courtroom and returned minutes later with a small stack of clothing. He said he had brought in underwear, socks, trousers and a T-shirt that Williams could use.
They “fit me, not Mr. Williams,” but he said Williams was welcome to use them. Horner noted too that it was Williams’ own actions at Santa Rita Jail that had led to the lack of shower and clothing.
“He does not have the right to do this,” Horner said. “This trial will proceed in his absence if he chooses to proceed in this fashion.”
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