A state appeals court has upheld the murder conviction of a 22-year-old Vallejo man in the fatal shooting of a fellow Vallejo resident in a post-football game altercation in Emeryville in 2004.
Vasega Tili was convicted in Alameda County Superior Court in 2006 and sentenced to 50 years in prison for fatally shooting Robert Stanford, 22, outside a Denny’s restaurant on Nov. 20, 2004.
Prosecutors said the two men were among a group of Vallejo residents who came to Berkeley looking for a party to crash after the annual “Big Game” football contest between the University of California at Berkeley and Stanford University.
A three-judge panel of the Court of Appeal on Tuesday upheld Tili’s conviction, rejecting his argument that his trial was unfair because the trial judge conferred with a juror outside the presence of lawyers.
Alameda County Superior Court Judge Allan Hymer had met with the juror in his chambers, with a court reporter but no lawyers present, to discuss an intimidating comment allegedly made to her by Tili’s brother as she walked into court during jury deliberations.
The judge allowed the juror to return to the deliberations after she told him she could continue to be impartial.
The appeals court said Hymer should not have talked to the juror without lawyers present, but said the incident did not affect the jury’s verdict.
The ruling was the second time the case came before the appeals court.
In its first ruling last year, the appeals court sent the case back to Hymer to conduct a hearing on whether the error made a difference to the outcome of the case.
After holding a hearing, Hymer concluded there was no adverse impact on the case and resentenced Tili to the 50-year term.
In Tuesday’s decision, the appeals court upheld that determination.
Justice James Marchiano wrote, “We conclude the record shows compelling evidence there was no impact on defendant’s substantial rights, and there is no reasonable possibility of prejudice to defendant.”