OAKLAND -- It took an Alameda County jury less than two hours this week to find an ex-convict guilty of first-degree murder in a case that was based largely on circumstantial evidence.
In a surprisingly quick decision, the jury of seven women and five men determined that Gregory Gadlin, 45, murdered Evan Meisner, 22, just after midnight on March 31, 2011, during a marijuana sale at Meisner's home at 4082 Lyon Ave.
Meisner, who was not a drug dealer, received a quarter-pound of marijuana instead of cash for some construction work he did for a friend. Needing money to pay for rent, Meisner decided to sell the marijuana, which was valued at $600 to $900.
Meisner told two friends about his plans and said he was going to sell the marijuana to a neighbor who was a "big black man" who had recently been released from prison. Meisner told one of his friends about the plan during dinner just hours before he was killed and even left half a beer in the refrigerator, saying he would return shortly.
Instead, Meisner was found dead by his landlord about seven hours after he was killed. Meisner was found laying face down, his face resting in a pool of blood and with his pants below his waist.
Meisner was shot once in the side of the face and evidence collected at the scene indicated that Meisner was kneeling when he was shot by somebody standing over him. Police also determined that it was likely Meisner's pockets were checked after he was shot because of the way his pants rested below his waist.
Initially, police had few clues, but upon talking to Meisner's friends and checking his cellphone records, investigators were able to link Gadlin to the crime.
Just before he was killed, Meisner received and made several calls to a cellphone number that belonged to Gadlin's wife, but one she said Gadlin always used.
Gadlin also matched the description Meisner gave his friends about who he was going to sell the marijuana to, and a records check found that Gadlin had been paroled a year earlier after serving time in prison for felony robbery.
During the murder investigation, Gadlin was arrested in connection with a domestic violence incident and from jail, the ex-convict made a phone call that led police to the trunk of Gadlin's car, where they found the murder weapon.
As authorities recorded that call,¿ Gadlin asked a friend to go to his car and remove an item hidden under a white box. Police rushed to the car before the friend arrived and found the 9 mm semi-automatic handgun that was used to killed Meisner.
A Gadlin family member also testified during the trial that Gadlin sold her about a quarter-pound of marijuana a day after Meisner was killed.
"As the evidence mounted the only reasonable conclusion became that the defendant was guilty as charged," deputy district attorney Greg Dolge said. "I'm gratified for the victim's family that justice was done."
Gadlin's attorney, assistant public defender William Keep, urged the jury to take a long look at the evidence as he suggested his client was set up.
Keep said there was no proof that Gadlin was in possession of the cellphone when Meisner called. In addition, Keep said, Gadlin's call from jail was made because he feared someone was trying to set him up for the murder by planting evidence in his car.
Keep could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
Gadlin now faces a lifetime in jail because the conviction was his third strike under the state's Three-Strikes Law. The normal 50 years to life penalty he faced for murder and for using a gun to kill will be enhanced.
Gadlin, who was convicted of three prior robbery felonies, is scheduled to be sentenced on March 29.