OAKLAND -- Jury deliberations could begin as early as Thursday in the murder trial for two Oakland teens whose confrontation at a San Leandro BART station last year led to an innocent man waiting for a bus getting killed by stray gunfire.
In closing arguments this week, Alameda County prosecutor Mark Melton said that 19-year-olds Jabrie Bennett and Andre Smith should each be convicted of murder in the Jan. 19, 2013 slaying of 50-year-old Fremont resident Kenneth Lee Seets because Bennett fired the deadly shot and Smith instigated the gunfire by reaching for his own gun during a verbal fight between their respective friend groups.
The prosecution is also seeking an attempted murder conviction against Bennett for allegedly shooting another young man in the back in East Oakland two days prior with the same assault rifle used to kill Seets at the Bay Fair BART station bus stop.
Defense attorney William Locke told jurors Thursday that Bennett was misidentified as the East Oakland shooter, perhaps intentionally by the victim.
Bennett and Smith were unknown to each other before the two groups got into an argument at the bus stop over tough looks and comments being thrown back and forth, mostly by Smith's brother and Bennett's girlfriend. The shooting caught by an AC Transit bus surveillance camera shows Bennett pull a .22-caliber, semi-automatic rifle from a red duffel bag and fire 10 rounds after Smith advanced toward Bennett while reaching for a gun in his waistband, according to Melton.
Locke argued that Bennett acted in self-defense, but if the jurors don't believe that he was motivated by fear, they should convict the young man of manslaughter because he had no intent to kill anyone. Bennett, Locke argued, was barely involved in the confrontation that preceded the gunfire.
"It is profoundly unfair ... to hold Jabrie Bennett criminally liable for whatever his girlfriend may or may not have said," Locke said.
Defense attorney Barbara Thomas, for Smith, is expected to give her closing argument Thursday. In her opening statement in January, Thomas told jurors that she would be asking for an acquittal at the end of the trial. She said that Smith did not cause or escalate the confrontation and that Bennett was in the process of brandishing his rifle before Smith moved toward him.
The jury is expected to get the case Thursday after a rebuttal argument from the prosecutor.
Contact Malaika Fraley at 925-234-1684. Follow her at Twitter.com/malaikafraley.