According to police, as a large crowd was leaving Jillian’s at Fourth and Mission streets at about 1:40 a.m. on Sept. 16, 2007, a fight broke out involving dozens of people.
Someone opened fire into the crowd, killing 27-year-old Ronald Jacques of San Francisco.
Kenoye Stroman, of Oakland, was arrested a short time later in a gaudy limousine decorated with racing stripes that was seen fleeing the shooting. Police had followed the limo into Oakland and pulled it over on the Grand Avenue exit off Interstate Highway 580.
Stroman’s defense attorneys claim another man in the limo was the actual shooter.
In his closing argument to the jury today, prosecutor Harry Dorfman argued that evidence showed Stroman’s cousin had touched off the fight by grabbing Jacques’ sister-in-law’s rear end. Jacques then punched Stroman’s cousin, and the brawl ensued.
As Jacques and his 29-year-old sister-in-law were walking away, Dorfman said, Stroman grabbed a gun from the limo and fired one shot, which went through Jacques’s heart and struck his sister-in-law in the arm.
Stroman, now 26, is charged with murder with the use of a firearm and assault with a firearm.
Dorfman told the jury it was a clear case of “payback.”
“He chose his victim,” Dorfman said. “He looked for that particular man in the crowd and fired, and hit him, and killed him. That’s murder.”
Dorman asked the jury to weigh whether the killing constituted first- or second-degree murder.
Defense attorney Peter Fitzpatrick of the public defender’s office argued that another man who was one of the seven limo passengers that night had actually fired the gun. He noted that gunshot residue was found on that man’s hand as well as Stroman’s.
A Glock 9-mm used in the killing was found hidden in a compartment in the limo, according to Dorfman.
One issue for jurors will be the reliability of witnesses to the shooting.
Two prosecution witnesses, a man and a woman, were shown the eight men in the limo, including the driver, by police at the scene of the Oakland arrest, and both identified Stroman as the shooter.
The woman said Stroman was “definitely” the shooter, and the man said he “looks like” the shooter, according to Dorfman. Both also provided similar descriptions of the shooter’s appearance and clothing, which resembled Stroman and what he had been wearing.
Jacques’ sister-in-law, however, did not identify Stroman as the shooter when shown photos of the men from her hospital bed, but she did provide a description of the shooter that was similar to the other two.
Fitzpatrick said the witnesses were unreliable and could not have been in a good position to see the shooter. He said a woman in an apartment across the street gave a description of a larger, lighter-skinned man wearing different clothing.
Dorfman acknowledged the testimony of his witnesses at trial was less definitive but maintained, “They were not hallucinating.” He said they had been “very motivated” to tell police what they had seen in the hours following the killing.
Fitzpatrick told the jury that the prosecution wanted to “reinvent the facts” and accused the government of a “witch hunt” against his client.
Fitzpatrick assailed police and prosecutors with accusations of misconduct and corruption, including hiding evidence and convincing witnesses to change their testimony.
“This is chilling,” he said. “This is not America.”
Fitzpatrick said his client had been “railroaded” and actually has a reputation for “peace and nonviolence.”
“I feel like I’m standing in front of a train, trying to stop a train from running somebody over,” he said. “Remember all the things (police and prosecutors) don’t tell you before you accept anything they say.”
Dorfman called Fitzpatrick’s assertions of police corruption in the case “offensive” and “foolish.”
“Rhetoric does not substitute for evidence,” he told the jury.
“You should pay attention to the evidence.”
The jury will begin deliberating Friday morning.