A murder charge against an 18-year-old Berkeley man for the fatal shooting of 24-year-old Devin Lee Whitmire in Berkeley in late March was dismissed after a dramatic courtroom moment in which the prosecution's key witness said the man wasn't involved in the shooting.
Randall Oscar Alston was the first person to be arrested and charged with murder in connection with the shooting death of Whitmire, a Berkeley resident, outside Bob's Liquors and Deli on the 2800 block of Sacramento Street the evening of March 29.
But Whitmire's brother, 22-year-old Darnell Robinson, who was with Whitmire when he was shot, entered the courtroom Tuesday shortly before the hearing was to begin, and said authorities had the wrong man with Alston.
"That's the guy who did it," he said, pointing at another man in the gallery, according to Alston's lawyer, James Giller.
Authorities have taken a statement from the man, but he has not been arrested, according to Berkeley police.
Charges against Alston, who had been in custody since the night of the shooting and was accused of aiding and abetting Stewart, were dismissed later on Tuesday and he has been released, Giller said. A second suspect arrested later, Calvester Stewart, 19, still faces murder charges.
Giller said that in 50 years practicing law he has never heard of another case in which a murder defendant was freed after a prosecution witness burst into court to say the wrong man was in custody.
"It's a unique situation and lawyers around the courthouse are talking about it," Giller said.
Under cross-examination by Stewart's lawyer Thursday, Robinson said he doesn't think the fatal shooting of Whitmire was related to an ongoing feud between two Berkeley gangs, the Waterfront Gang and the South Berkeley Gang.
"I don't know why they shot my brother," he said. "They probably thought he was someone else."
Prosecutor Joseph Goethals and Alameda County District Attorney spokeswoman Teresa Drenick declined to comment.
Stewart's preliminary hearing began Thursday and is expected to continue for most of the week. In addition to being charged with murder in connection with Whitmire's death, Stewart is charged with several counts of attempted murder of a peace officer for an April 3 incident in which he allegedly engaged in a shootout with Berkeley police officers.
-- Bay City News Service