Click photo to enlarge
Nathan Burris, who is charged with killing two people at the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge toll plaza in 2009, stands inside Department 8 of the Bray Courthouse at the start of his death penalty trial in Martinez, Calif., on Wednesday Oct. 24, 2012. (Dan Rosenstrauch/Staff)

MARTINEZ -- The sentencing of a man headed to Death Row for the 2009 Richmond-San Rafael Bridge toll plaza murders was postponed Tuesday because County Jail workers erroneously revoked the privileges he's afforded as a self-representing defendant.

Nathan Burris, a 49-year-old Richmond man, is now scheduled to be sentenced Jan. 18 for the Aug. 11, 2009, ambush killings of Caltrans toll taker Deborah Ann Ross, 51, and Golden Gate Transit bus driver Ersie "Chuckie" Everette, a 58-year-old San Leandro resident.

A Contra Costa County jury on Nov. 20 recommended that Burris be sentenced to death after convicting him of two counts of first-degree murder and special circumstances that made him eligible for capital punishment. Burris acted as his own attorney and presented no real defense. He was unapologetic about killing his ex-girlfriend and her friend because he suspected the two had become romantically involved.

As a so-called "pro per" defendant acting as his own attorney, Burris is afforded access to a law library and a telephone to maintain contact with his advisory counsel.

It is the policy of the Contra Costa County Sheriff's Office to terminate such privileges seven days after a pro per defendant is sentenced. In Burris' case, those privileges were revoked by mistake seven days after his jury reached its death verdict, Chief Assistant District Attorney Harold Jewett said.


Advertisement

"It's not my fault that I didn't have time to prepare myself," Burris said Monday at what was supposed to be his sentencing hearing. "This is against the Constitution."

Judge John Kennedy ordered the Sheriff's Office to reinstate Burris' pro per privileges and rescheduled the sentencing. The judge noted the delay is a hardship to all of the victims' relatives.

"We just want to have closure and move on from this," Ersie Everette's brother, Ron Everette, said while leaving the courthouse.

Contact Malaika Fraley at 925-234-1684. Follow her Twitter.com/malaikafraley.