After final arguments, murderer’s fate lies with jury
on November 17, 2009
A prosecutor and a defense attorney presented drastically differing depictions of fair punishment Monday during the final court arguments over the fate of an Oakland native and convicted double-murderer. Christopher Evans, convicted this summer of a pair of 2001 East Oakland killings, will undoubtedly end his days in prison. What jurors must now decide is whether that end will come via capital punishment or of natural causes at the end of a life-without-parole sentence.
“I’m simply asking all of you to have the moral strength to do the hard thing, to do the right thing, and – most of all – to do the just thing,” Deputy District Attorney Michael Nieto said to the seven-woman, five-man jury. “And that is to deliver a penalty of death in this case.”
In seeking the death penalty, Nieto told jurors that Evans fled the scene of his “cold-blooded” murders, denied involvement in the killings to his child’s mother immediately afterward, and pointed to Evans’ unrelated legal problems before and after the shooting. Evans twice received felony convictions for selling crack cocaine in the 1990s, served jail time for a 1994 assault, and has been involved in several disciplinary disturbances since being incarcerated for the killings of Rose and Brown, Nieto said.
This July, the same jury convicted Evans of first-degree murder for the death of Tina Rose, age 28, and second-degree murder for the death of Tommy Lee Brown, 41. In April 2001, Rose’s brother knocked Evans out cold following an argument outside Tina Rose’s beauty shop, Teez Hair Design, near the corner of 85th Avenue and International Boulevard. After regaining consciousness, both sides agree, Evan walked into Rose’s salon with a handgun given to him by a friend. Brown tried to diffuse the situation but was shot twice, one bullet rupturing his femoral artery. As Brown bled to death, Evans followed Rose as she fled out the salon door and killed her with a single bullet to the back of her head.
Nieto urged jurors not to “fall victim to an unfair guilt trip” in struggling with a decision “that isn’t about whether or not you’re good people.” He showed a close-up photo of Rose’s blood-soaked head and photos of Rose and Brown’s coffins.
“Let’s make a huge distinction,” he said. “Murder is the killing of innocent people. Your fixing the penalty of death in this trial is not murder. It’s punishment.”
In final defense arguments, Evans’ attorney William DuBois told jurors not to inflict a punishment typically reserved for “the worst of the worst” on someone with no previous violent felony convictions.
DuBois and fellow defense attorney Alexander Selvin had previously argued that Evans was in an “altered state” and “impaired” when he shot Rose and Brown; that he was “blacked out” and suffering the effects of a serious concussion resulting from the blow by Rose’s brother that had knocked him unconscious.
Arguing that a sentence of life without parole would be adequate punishment for Evans, DuBois painted a bleak picture of what such a sentence would bring: more than 22 hours per day in an eight-by-eight-foot cell where Evans would wake up every morning to see a metal door locking him in. Occasional family visits would become increasingly sporadic, DuBois said, and eventually notices from prison guards would tell him that his father had died, then his lawyer had died, then his mother had died. Finally, DuBois said, a guard would someday notice that Evans hadn’t taken his evening meal, and find Evans himself dead in the cell.
“The guard will put him in a body bag and carry him out to his grave,” DuBois said. “And that is punishment enough.”
Jury deliberations will continue on Tuesday.
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