MARTINEZ -- Jury deliberations began Tuesday in the death penalty trial for a Richmond man who says he has no remorse for killing two people at the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge toll plaza Aug. 11, 2009.
Defendant Nathan Burris, who is representing himself, told jurors they should quickly convict him of fatally shooting his ex-girlfriend, Caltrans toll taker Deborah Ann Ross, 51, and her friend 58-year-old Ersie "Chuckie" Everette, a Golden Gate Transit Authority bus driver from San Leandro.
"You don't need a half-hour. You don't even need five minutes," Burris said in his closing statement. "Let's get to the penalty phase."
Jurors, however, left Tuesday without reaching a verdict after spending the afternoon listening to read-back of testimony by Burris, who has a severe speech impediment that makes him difficult to understand. They will return to the jury room Wednesday morning.
If the jury convicts Burris of first-degree murder and at least one special allegation, there will be a penalty trial at which the jury would have to decide between capital punishment and life without the possibility of parole.
That is unless California voters on Tuesday night pass Proposition 34 and abolish the death penalty in the state. If that happens, the court will scrap the penalty trial and Burris will be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Burris said he's fine with either fate. He spent more time during his closing statement talking about how he's prepared to "shank" other prison inmates than he did about the crimes that brought him to trial.
Burris testified that both Everette and Ross, who were friends through the Acts Full Gospel Church in Oakland, saw him with a shotgun near the toll plaza and cried out for him to stop before he killed them. He shot Everette in the parking lot and then ran to the toll booth and shot Ross as she was on duty. Burris testified that he was angry because he believed Ross and Everette were romantically involved after she ended their 14-year relationship. He claimed that Everette threatened him once on the phone, but he was not specific about the exchange during direct testimony and he refused to answer the prosecutor's questions during cross-examination.
Burris told detectives that he brought three guns to the bridge that day and was prepared to shoot a California Highway Patrol officer had one been at the usual station.
The incident happened during the busy evening commute and "could have been a lot worse" had anyone tried to intervene, chief assistant district attorney Harold Jewett said.
Jewett told jurors that he thinks much of Burris' motivation boils down to money. Burris was financially dependent on the hardworking Ross for years, and Burris, a former long-haul truck driver, was either unwilling or unable to provide for himself.
"He was a little bit of a goldbricker," Jewett said.
"Nathan Burris is all about ownership, arrogance, power and control," Jewett said. "I don't know what Debbie saw in him way back when but whatever it was, it's gone."
Contact Malaika Fraley at 925-234-1684. Follow her at Twitter.com/malaikafraley.