OAKLAND -- The Alameda County District Attorney's Office announced Thursday it is seeking the death penalty against an Oakland man accused of opening fire on three young children and killing an 8-year-old girl in Oakland as well as killing a man in Berkeley in a separate case.
Darnell Williams, 23, is the first person to face a death penalty prosecution in Alameda County since David Mills was sentenced to death in 2012 for killing three people in Oakland in 2005.
He is the first person the DA's office has decided to seek capital punishment against since District Attorney Nancy O'Malley took office in 2011, despite numerous defendants who are eligible for death penalty prosecutions each year. O'Malley's predecessor, Tom Orloff, pursued 47 death penalty cases over his 15-year stint as district attorney.
O'Malley was not available to comment Thursday, according to an office spokeswoman, but she told the Oakland Tribune in 2012 that death penalty prosecutions would be a rarity for her office and only pursued when there is no doubt as to the accused's guilt.
"It's not a lightweight decision to make. We should be pondering this decision and looking at it from all angles," O'Malley said in 2012. "My own personal feeling is that if we make that recommendation, it would be rarely done because we want it to be reserved for the most heinous cases."
Williams is accused of knocking on the door of an East Oakland house and firing through the security door on the three children who answered the front door thinking it was the mother of two of them. Alaysha Carradine, who was at the house for a sleepover, was killed, and her two friends and their grandmother were wounded.
Authorities say Williams committed the shooting in revenge for the killing of his friend Jermaine Davis, 26, earlier that day in Berkeley. The estranged father of the two surviving children, Antiown York, of Pittsburg, has been charged with killing Davis.
York did not live with the children and was not involved in their lives, their mother said at Williams' preliminary hearing.
O'Malley rarely comments on new prosecutions but when Williams and Berkeley resident Joseph Carroll were arrested and charged with Alaysha's death in October, she stood beside Oakland Mayor Jean Quan and police officials at a news conference and spoke of the callousness of the crime.
All charges against Carroll related to Alaysha's death were dismissed for lack of evidence at the preliminary hearing.
Williams is also charged with murder in the Sept. 8 killing of 22-year-old Berkeley resident Anthony Medearis Jr. during a dice game in Berkeley. More than a dozen shots were fired. Williams' 8-year-old nephew was injured by a metal fragment that struck his face during the shooting.
The special allegation of multiple murders makes Williams eligible for the death penalty.
Attorneys in the case declined to comment Thursday. Williams returns to court June 11.
Contact Malaika Fraley at 925-234-1684. Follow her at Twitter.com/malaikafraley.