Defense’s Poignant Closing Statement from Murder Retrial – “Justice Will Prevail”

By Savannah Dewberry 

ALAMEDA, CA– “There’s something holy and haunting about statements of the deceased,” said Alameda Public Defender Bao Doan Friday in Alameda County Superior County Court, adding, “But this is a jury trial, we are not here to honor the words of the dead.”

Doan was referring to shooting victim Reginald Blackburn’s statement allegedly given to an Oakland police officer, while being wheeled into surgery: “Anthony shot me.”

Anthony Paige, 32, was convicted in 2018 of killing Blackburn, 49, but this retrial seeks to prove his innocence.

The Third Division of California’s First Appellate District ruled 3-0 that trial Judge C. Don Clay should have let the jury hear evidence that Paige’s cousin lied to a detective about his whereabouts during the shooting, and ordered a retrial.

Paige allegedly shot Blackburn in the lower back, on Dec. 17, 2016, after a fistfight on East 17th Street. Multiple eyewitnesses recounted seeing the fight, but not a gun in Paige’s hand.

Doan argued that Blackburn’s statement was, in her words, “the least reliable.”

“We have a cultural tendency to elevate the words of the dead over those of the living,” said Doan. The defense argued that Blackburn could have only inferred who had shot him, because he was fatally shot in his back.

“At the time the bullet entered his body, he could not have seen the shooting,” said Doan. “He could not have seen the shooter.”

Alameda County Deputy District Attorney Melissa Demetral disagreed, saying Blackburn could have seen the shooter and turned around in a split second.

“When a firearm is put to your face, you’re not going to stand still and say ‘here I am,’” said Melissa Demetral. “What do I do when a gun is pointed at my face? I turn.”

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Demetral also argued against Doan’s analysis of Blackburn’s statement.

“You’re within feet of that gun and you’re the least reliable?” asked Demetral to the jury. “When he (Blackburn) gave that statement he thought he was going to die and that is why he said it, and that is why it is reliable.

“The fact that the defendant pointed a gun…and shot because he was losing a fight, that is murder,” said Demetral in her closing words. “The fact that (the victim) didn’t have a gun and was not armed, that is murder.”

Doan also noted the discrepancy that Paige’s fingerprints had not been found on the murder weapon, and that there were two men named “Anthony” at the incident.

Doan ended her closing argument with a call to action to the jury.

“The truth was here all along and the truth resides with this man here. Anthony Paige didn’t do the shooting,” said Doan. “In the end, I think that justice will prevail.”

The jury was sent out to deliberate Friday.

About The Author

Savannah Dewberry is a third-year student at the University of San Francisco studying media and journalism.

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