SAN JOSE -- The verdict is expected to be announced Wednesday morning in the trial of a young man accused of slaying of a 15-year-old Santa Teresa High School student for thrills.
Defendant Jae Williams, now 20, was 15 in 2009 when prosecutors say he and alleged accomplice Randy Thompson strolled over to Michael Russell's house carrying two knives, lured him outside with the prospect of smoking marijuana, then tackled and repeatedly stabbed and possibly choked the boy to death in his own South San Jose backyard.
The jury deliberated for only one day after a month-long trial, reaching a verdict late Tuesday.
Williams was tried as an adult in the killing. Thompson, who was 16 when the Nov. 10, 2009, killing occurred, will stand trial after Williams' case. Both face life sentences if they are convicted.
The prosecution contended that Williams is guilty of first-degree murder for concocting and carrying out a manipulative and sadistic plan to befriend and kill Michael. In a videotaped confession two days after Michael was killed, Williams told San Jose homicide detectives that he and Thompson dabbled in Satanism and had already beaten a cat to death, adding, "I guess I just finally wanted to kill somebody. I had my chance and took it."
During the interview, Williams offered several versions of his role in the brutal stabbing, ranging from merely watching Thompson to tackling Michael and pinning him down to slitting his throat to make sure he was dead. Prosecutor Valerie McGuire told jurors Monday in her closing argument that Williams was guilty of premeditated murder even if they believed he only aided and abetted Thompson.
The evidence against Williams included a chef's knife stolen from Thompson's kitchen and stained with Michael's blood, and a sweatshirt containing Williams' DNA and Michael's blood. Williams told police he tossed the weapon, sweatshirt and another blood-stained jacket with Thompson's DNA in a dumpster; police found them nearby in the bushes.
Defense attorney Lewis Romero contended that Thompson and his older brother carried out the killing, and that the Thompson family engaged in a cover-up. He also brought in experts who testified that Williams gave a false confession, in part because he was sleep-deprived from being kept overnight in a holding cell at the station.
McGuire said Michael was "butchered" by the two defendants, who stabbed him at least 12 times. The causes of death were stabbing and asphyixiation, either from a stab wound or from being choked. The attack lasted six minutes, according to Williams' confession.
Michael was found later that night by his uncle, whose plaintive attempts to revive him were heard by the jury via a 911 recording.
In his closing argument Monday, Romero tried to persuade jurors to acquit Williams, saying at least twice that he is personally opposed to ''locking children up in adult cages for the rest of their lives." Jurors are barred from factoring potential sentences in their decision, and Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Arthur Bocanegra ordered them to discount the remark.
Thompson's trial is likely to start next month. Bocanegra decided to hold consecutive trials because Thompson and Williams each implicated each other in police interviews.
Check back later for updates to this story.
Staff writer Tracey Kaplan contributed to this report.