MARTINEZ -- Death penalty defendant Nathan Burris told jurors Thursday that while he was justified in fatally shooting his ex-girlfriend and her friend at the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge toll plaza, he's happy to go to death row for the killings because capital punishment in California is "laughable."
"It's nothing to be scared of, not when it takes 30 years to execute you. Really, I have 30 years to hang out," said Burris, a 49-year-old Richmond resident acting as his own attorney on capital murder charges in the Aug. 11, 2009, slayings of Caltrans toll collector Deborah Ann Ross, 51, and Golden Gate bus driver Ersie "Chuckie" Everette, a 58-year-old San Leandro resident.
Burris, who speaks with a severe speech impediment that makes him difficult to understand, took the witness stand for more than an hour Thursday to give his "truth" about the killings, which he says he has admitted to since the day of his arrest. He repeatedly said the court proceedings are a waste of time because of his confession, though he's never pleaded guilty to the crimes.
The families of Ross and Everette, who have been verbally insulted by Burris during the trial, walked out of the courtroom during his testimony.
Burris and Ross were an unmarried couple for about 14 years before she ended the relationship. Burris said they were broken up but still sharing a home when she began seeing Everette, which he considered adultery.
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Burris said he heard Ross talking intimately on the house phone with Everette. He picked up another receiver and confronted them, at which point Everette threatened him.
Burris wasn't specific about the alleged threat but said he had no choice but to react the way he did because he's a man who was trained to protect himself and others when he was a security guard for the San Francisco housing authority.
"I have to get him before he gets me," Burris said, recalling his thinking at the time. "I have no remorse about it. I have no regret about it. I'm not going to get on my knees and beg for mercy."
Ross did beg for mercy, according to Burris, after he spontaneously decided to come at her with a shotgun as she was on duty in a toll booth during the evening commute, moments after killing Everette.
"Nathan, stop. Nathan, stop," he said she cried out. "I didn't say anything. No need to.
"My hate and passion and anger got the better of me," Burris said. "There's a thin line between love and hate. ... I went for her."
Burris said he's content living in a jail cell, which he calls his apartment. He became accustomed to living in confined spaces while working as a long-haul truck driver, as he'd often sleep in the truck.
"If this is my retirement, so be it," Burris said. "Send me on my way; I'm happy, I'm smiling and laughing. I have no remorse."
The trial recessed early Thursday afternoon so that Burris could rest his voice. He returns to the witness stand at 9 a.m. Monday in Contra Costa Superior Court Judge John Kennedy's Martinez courtroom.
Contact Malaika Fraley at 925-234-1684. Follow her at Twitter.com/malaikafraley.