A San Francisco Superior Court jury began deliberating this afternoon in the murder trial of an alleged gang member accused of shooting another man over a jeweled pendant he was trying to steal from him.
Prosecutor Michael Swart asked jurors during his closing argument today to convict Charles Heard, 25, of San Francisco, of first-degree murder for the killing of 29-year-old Richard Barrett in North Beach in 2008.
Barrett was shot near Broadway and Kearny streets during what police described as a robbery attempt by two men of Barrett’s distinctive necklace, depicting the Flintstones baby Bamm-Bamm, in the early morning hours of Nov. 25, 2008.
Barrett was shot twice in the back and collapsed and died inside the nearby Fuse bar.
Heard was arrested in July 2009. In addition to murder, he is also charged with attempted robbery, gun possession and participation in a criminal street gang.
Heard’s lawyer, Eric Safire, contends police arrested the wrong man.
“The government is encouraging you to make a mistake,” he warned jurors today.
Safire said the evidence showed “that the police think that Mr. Heard is a bad guy.”
“But he didn’t shoot Richie Barrett,” Safire maintained.
But Swart presented evidence from two eyewitnesses who identified Heard as the shooter. One testified that she was certain Heard was the shooter and recognized him by a gold tooth.
Swart also played for jurors a July 2008 FBI wiretap in which Heard purportedly bragged to friends about the money he would make by stealing expensive jewelry and cashing it in at pawn shops.
Swart told jurors that those robberies were Heard’s “business plan” and allowed him to maintain his status in the Western Addition neighborhood gang that he allegedly belongs to.
Swart said that was Heard’s motive for shooting Barrett after Barrett fended him and the other assailant off and tried to run.
“So he can’t go back empty-handed, or at least he can’t go back and lose face,” Swart said. “That’s why he shot Richard Barrett.”
“That’s a bunch of kids talking nonsense talk,” Safire said of the wiretap. “These are guys just talking to each other and puffing.”
Swart also introduced evidence that Heard’s cell phone records show calls along the route of a car fleeing from police in the area of the murder that night.
Video surveillance from nearby North Beach businesses showed two men leaving the scene of the killing, one of them resembling Heard, Swart said.
Safire has vigorously contested the identification of his client from the videos, and Swart has acknowledged the video quality is poor.
Jurors began deliberating late this afternoon and will resume Friday morning.