OAKLAND -- Testimony begins Thursday at the murder trial for two Oakland teens charged with killing an innocent bystander with stray gunfire at a San Leandro BART station last year.
The prosecution says the 19-year-olds Jabrie Bennett and Andre Smith were in opposing groups of young people whose mutual exchange of insults escalated to gunfire at a bus stop at the Bay Fair bus station on Jan. 19, 2013. Fifty-year-old Fremont resident Kenneth Lee Seets had been waiting for a bus when a bullet from Bennett's .22-caliber, semi-automatic rifle hit him in the heart.
While Bennett fired the fatal shot, prosecutor Mark Melton alleges that Smith is as responsible for Seets' death because he gestured to a gun and advanced on Bennett, spurring the other teen to fire. The teens did not know each other before the confrontation that attorneys say was largely fueled by Smith's little brother and Bennett's girlfriend.
Bennett is also being tried for allegedly shooting a teen rival two days before Seets' death.
In opening statements Wednesday, defense attorney William Locke said that Bennett has been misidentified as the teen's shooter, and fired at the BART station that day because he believed that Smith was going to shoot him. He said Bennett will take the witness stand to explain how his experiences with gun violence in East Oakland led him to bringing a loaded rifle to the Bay Fair mall in a duffle bag that day.
Defense attorney Barbara Thomas told jurors she will be asking acquittal for Smith. She said Bennett was already in the process of removing the rifle from the duffle bag when Smith moved toward him. Smith said nothing and did nothing to cause or escalate the confrontation and subsequent shooting, according to the attorney.
Bennett and Smith's trial is the second involving the death of a bystander underway in Alameda County. Last week at Hayward courthouse, a prosecutor began presenting evidence against two Oakland men whose exchange of gunfire at a busy gas station last year caused former Oakland Tribune freelancer Lionel Fluker to be fatally shot.
Contact Malaika Fraley at 925-234-1684. Follow her at Twitter.com/malaikafraley.