COURT WATCH: Woman Facing Repeated Death Threats Accused of Murdering Attacker

By Helen Shamamyan 

OAKLAND, CA – A woman, appearing at her preliminary hearing this week in Alameda County Superior Court, was accused of murdering someone who made death threats towards her and attempted to attack her.

Violent and severely disturbing text messages from the victim before the incident were provided as evidence in the Alameda court of the threat posed to the accused, but the prosecution called into question whether the accused truly acted in self-defense.

And, Judge Mark A. McCannon denied the accused’s motions to release her from custody and to hold her to lesser charges due to doubts raised by the prosecution.

In the preliminary hearing before Judge McCannon, Deputy Public Defender Alphonso C. Mance spearheaded the presentation of the conflicting arguments, hoping to reduce the felony murder charges and getting her released from her hold in jail as the trial proceeds.

DPD Mance explained how, on the night the alleged victim was shot and killed, around 2 a.m. in the morning, the person appeared at the scene and asked another individual for pepper spray, allegedly to use in order to “f**k this bitch up,” referring to the accused.

The alleged victim hid behind an object and ambushed the accused, reaching her arm out to attack her just as the accused spun around and reacted quickly, in this case by using a firearm to defend herself, said the defense.

The accused, who holds no prior criminal record, had been on the scene for hours “minding her own business” before the attack was initiated, resulting in the death of the attacker, said DPD Mance.

According to DPD Mance’s argument, the victim was actively reaching out to attack the accused when the accused spun around, only because another individual at the scene alerted her that someone was close behind her.

Mance added, because the victim had concealed herself to avoid detection by the accused, the DPD argued the victim had not intended to have a “fair fight,” nor to allow the accused to defend herself from bodily harm.

In addition, DPD Mance presented various text messages the victim sent to the accused prior to the violent confrontation, which included six different threats of violence and death. For instance, the content reportedly included, “I know where you live” and “You’re gonna end up next to your dead-ass brother,” as read aloud by DPD Mance.

Given the explicit words, the defense argues it was reasonable for the accused to have feared for her safety and to have acted with lethal force in a surprise confrontation with the individual who was threatening her life.

DPD Mance points out that past Supreme Court and California cases make it clear that “prior threats of violence” justify an accused acting quickly on a “hostile demonstration” against them.

It was also argued the accused fired approximately two bullets at the victim, which is statistically the average number of shots fired in cases of self-defense, indicating “lethal force consistent with self-defense.”

Additionally, in order to hold someone for murder, there must be evidence of malicious intent, said DPD Mance, noting there isn’t any provable malice in a situation where someone is acting “in a necessary manner” to avoid injury or death.

Deputy District Attorney Jake C. O’Malley argued the accused was not acting in self-defense, because the video showed her immediately firing at the victim, who “only” possessed the pepper spray on her person. In contrast, the accused possessed a gun well before the victim showed up at the scene.

The prosecution charged the lethal force used by the accused was not proportional to the threat posed by the victim. However, DPD Mance rejected this claim, stating that pepper spray—although not considered “lethal force” —is a tool used by law enforcement and other individuals to quickly incapacitate an individual, which would leave a person vulnerable to physical harm or death.

DPD Mance said “best-case scenario would’ve been a serious injury,” and the worst-case scenario, given the verbal threats preceding, would’ve been the accused’s death.

In closing, Judge McCannon reviewed the text messages, and concluded there is evidence to justify this as an act of self-defense, but also enough to indicate probable cause for murder, which is sufficient to hold the accused in custody as the matter proceeds to criminal trial. The case is to reconvene on Jan. 24.

About The Author

I am a student from Southern California that's graduating this year from UC Berkeley. Prior to coming here, I worked as a court watch/ law clerk for a PEO in worker's comp cases of California warehouses. I reported the hearing summaries and outcomes to the employer and maintained correspondence with the attornies prior to and after each hearing on behalf of my boss. I have nearly completed by Bachelors in English, and I am planning on taking a break year before delving into law school to study civil rights defense.

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