MARTINEZ -- Speaking to a jury that will soon decide whether he should be sentenced to death, the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge toll plaza killer on Wednesday told jurors his past is irrelevant to the 2009 slayings but, by the way, he is responsible for three unsolved San Francisco armed robberies in the mid-1990s.
Nathan Burris, a 49-year-old Richmond man acting as his own attorney, made the apparent confession after calling himself as his sole witness in the penalty phase of his trial. The Contra Costa jury convicted Burris last week of two counts of first-degree murder and special circumstances in the Aug. 11, 2009, shotgun killings of Burris' ex-girlfriend, Caltrans toll taker Deborah Ann Ross, and Ross' friend Ersie "Chuckie" Everette, a Golden Gate Transit bus driver and San Leandro resident.
Burris has mocked the judicial system, his prosecutor and his victims' families throughout the trial. His most used -- and he says favorite -- phrase: So what?
During his five-minute stint on the witness stand Wednesday, he called out the jury foreman for taking a whole day before reaching a verdict in the trial's guilt phase. He told the foreman in the next deliberations to consider that Ross' and Everette's families wanted him housed among the general prison population because they believe he would suffer more there than on death row.
"If the family wants life without parole, I would say oblige them," Burris said. "I'm OK with it."
Chief assistant district attorney Harold Jewett's penalty phase witnesses included past employers and co-workers who testified they had been threatened by Burris. After dramatically quitting an armed security guard job at the Acorn housing project in Oakland in 1993, Burris said if he didn't get his final check within 72 hours, he was going to shoot office staffers in the head, his former supervisors testified.
Kentucky residents Frank and Linda Keichline testified that Burris left them a series of threatening voice-mail messages after they fired him for incompetence from their trucking business in 2008. The calls prompted them to send Ross a letter warning her about Burris.
Burris insisted on recalling the Keichlines to the witness stand for his defense. They were in an airplane en route to the Bay Area on Wednesday when Burris said he changed his mind.
"I'm very defiant in all the things I do," Burris said.
He told the jury the prosecution's witnesses have been a waste of time before confessing to three unsolved armed robberies at San Francisco Walgreens stores in 1995 or 1996. Burris claimed he stole $30,000 to $40,000 during the first of the robberies at the Walgreens at Polk and Green streets. Statute of limitations would bar Burris from being prosecuted if the confession could be proved true.
Jewett's first question upon cross-examination was what kind of gun did he use.
"At this time, I'm not going to answer your questions," Burris said, grinning. "Motion denied."
Jewett and Burris give their closing arguments Thursday.
Contact Malaika Fraley at 925-234-1684. Follow her at Twitter.com/malaikafraley.