Alameda County Superior Court Judge Jon Rolefson has denied a defense motion for a new trial and sentenced Brandon Wallace, 27, to 118 years to life in prison for a 2010 shooting in Berkeley that claimed one life and could have taken another.
The sentencing came more than eight months after Wallace’s conviction for the murder of Gary Ferguson Jr. and the attempted murder of Larry Belle outside a South Berkeley barbershop on Sacramento Street.
Thursday, Rolefson heard arguments from defense attorney Bonnie Narby and prosecutor Matt Wendt about whether a statement from codefendant Coleon Carroll presented significant enough evidence to trigger a new trial. Carroll took a plea deal in the case and said he was the getaway driver after the shooting.
Rolefson heard Carroll’s testimony and that of several others, but ultimately denied the defense motion and said he did not believe Carroll was credible. Carroll said his deceased cousin Jermaine Davis was actually responsible for the crime of which Wallace had been convicted.
Wallace was convicted in March of being one of two assailants in the 2010 double shooting. Police found him in the hospital, with a gunshot wound to the thigh, shortly after they were called to the Sacramento Street crime scene. Detectives said Wallace’s description, injury and clothing tied him to the Berkeley shooting. The other gunman has not been arrested or publicly identified.
During his trial, Wallace took the stand in his own defense and testified that, rather than being shot on Sacramento Street as Berkeley investigators said, he was shot during a robbery in Richmond. Investigators found no evidence to back that story up. Narby said they did not try, and “rushed to judgment” when they arrested her client.
In September, Narby alerted the court she planned to request a new trial based on a June statement from Carroll, who had been sentenced to 12 years in prison for his role in the murder.
Carroll told a defense investigator Wallace was “definitely not there” during the shooting and, according to court papers describing the investigator’s paraphrase of the interview, said “Brandon does not deserve to do life in prison for something he didn’t do.”
Carroll said Davis — not Wallace — picked him up in West Oakland Oct. 26, 2010, and took Carroll into Berkeley. They went to Harmon Street to roll dice, and then Carroll took the wheel when they left to drive around. At some point, he said, Davis suddenly told him to park. Then Davis and two other passengers got out and walked away. Carroll said he heard gunshots, and the trio ran back and jumped in the car.
Carroll also said, according to court papers, that Davis had been picked up in that same vehicle in October 2010 in connection with a different murder attempt, that Davis had more access to the vehicle than Wallace “ever had,’” and that Davis and Wallace “were always being mistaken for each other” because they “are both tall, dark skinned, and wore their hair in dreads.”
Davis, who was Carroll’s cousin, was killed in a shooting in Berkeley in July 2013.
Narby wrote, in her motion for a new trial, that Carroll’s statement was “newly discovered evidence” that was previously unknown to her client or herself.
“Mr. Carroll’s statements do not simply state Mr. Wallace was not present; rather, Mr. Carroll states he was present at the scene and personally identifies another individual, Mr. Davis, along with two other individuals, as the perpetrators,” she wrote. She argued the jury would have made a different decision had it heard from Carroll, who is now serving his sentence at a private prison in Arizona.
“The newly discovered evidence the defense seeks to introduce is an actual identification of one of the shooters involved in the incident by a witness the prosecution concedes was present,” Narby wrote. “This is not speculation. This is not remote possibility. This is direct evidence.”
In his response to the motion, prosecutor Wendt called Wallace’s description of being robbed in Richmond a “ridiculous story,” and said Carroll’s “non-sworn statement” was “a halfhearted attempt” to blame the crime “on an individual who has been dead over 3 years and cannot be held to any criminal liability.”
He further described Carroll’s words as “another feeble attempt” to cast doubt on witness testimony, and said his account was “factually incorrect” and “unbelievable.”
“Brandon Wallace is his good friend for years by the defendant’s own admission and evidenced by him having Carroll’s first name tattooed on his arm,” Wendt wrote, adding that Carroll waited until after his plea was done to try to make a statement in support of Wallace. “He is free to say whatever he wants and whatever he thinks will benefit his good friend who bears his name forever embedded … on his body in ink.”
Wendt said he presented a “mountain of evidence” to demonstrate Wallace’s culpability in the murder and attempted murder, and described Wallace’s sentencing as “long overdue.”
Thursday’s hearing lasted from about 9:30 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. Ultimately, Judge Rolefson said he found inconsistencies in Carroll’s testimony that did not match the facts in evidence, and found that he was not credible.
Wendt said he also presented a jail letter from Wallace from Oct. 25 in which he was trying to get his mother to contact a surviving victim to get him to change his testimony. That letter was read into the record by a sheriff’s department employee who monitors mail and jail calls at Santa Rita in Dublin.
Wendt also called to the stand a Berkeley police officer who had attended Davis’ autopsy and found no scarring on his leg consistent with the injury police said he sustained during the Sacramento Street attack.
Narby called only Carroll to the stand.
Wendt said the defense has already filed a notice of its intent to begin the appeal process with the attorney general’s office.
Wallace will be transferred to San Quentin prison for processing, and to determine where his next placement will be. According on online records from the Alameda County sheriff’s office, he remains at Santa Rita Jail in Dublin as of Wednesday.
Sentencing postponed again in murder; convicted accomplice disputes identity of killer (09.29.16)
Wallace found guilty in 2010 Berkeley murder (03.21.16)
Jury deliberations begin in 2010 Berkeley murder case (03.17.16)
Defense attorney: Berkeley detectives ‘rushed to judgment’ in murder case arrest (03.07.16)
Berkeley man takes plea deal in 2010 murder case (02.26.16)
Case dismissed in Jermaine Davis homicide (09.17.14)
4 with Berkeley ties held to answer in alleged murder plot (04.10.14)
1 held to answer in Berkeley murder of ‘Lil Tone’ (01.13.14)
Berkeley police make second arrest in murder (11.01.10)
Berkeley police arrest man suspected of murder (10.28.10)
Memorial set up for Berkeley slaying victim (10.28.10)
Another murder in Berkeley (10.26.10)
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