OAKLAND -- Throughout almost the entire time Donald Britton has been held in jail on a murder charge in the slayingof his sister's neighbor Leo Dunson, he never spoke about doing so in self-defense.
Instead, in more than 5 ½ hours of recorded phone and in-person conversations, Britton, 38, spoke about how prosecutors could never prove he was the person who shot Dunson, 50, on June, 2, 2011.
Only one witness could identify Britton as the shooter, and that was his half-sister who Britton was confident would never be found by police and brought to court to testify.
But when Britton's sister was found and eventually brought to court, the ex-felon suddenly changed his defense from one of complete innocence to one of self-defense, deputy district attorney Stacie Pettigrew said.
That change in defense, coupled with evidence collected at the scene of the killing and testimony from witnesses, proves that Britton's claim of self-defense is simply a ruse crafted in an attempt to avoid a first-degree murder conviction, Pettigrew said.
"The moment his sister walked into this courtroom, he knew the gig was up," Pettigrew said, repeating a statement Britton made from the witness stand. "You cannot, for a second, believe the concocted story he tried to sell you."
Britton testified that he killed Dunson during a fight sparked by Britton's attempt to talk to Dunson about the 50-year-old's constant harassment of Britton's sister.
Britton said Dunson began to attack him after Britton asked him why he continually followed and harassed his sister, who was Dunson's neighbor. During the fight, Britton said, Dunson began to choke him, so Britton pulled out his gun and shot Dunson in the head.
Britton said he never mentioned self-defense in the past, and lied to police and his own family, because he did not trust the criminal justice system and feared he would be railroaded into a murder conviction.
Pettigrew, however, said evidence proves Britton's story is a lie. A pathologist testified during the trial that Dunson was shot in the back of the head and at least two witnesses testified they saw Britton fire shots at Dunson from a distance and without talking to the man first.
Bullet strike marks found at the scene also prove that Britton fired from several feet away and not from up close has he contended, Pettigrew said.
"He's not admitting lying in the past for some magnanimous reason, he only admitted lying because in his own words the gig was up," Pettigrew said. "It's physically impossible for this crime to have occurred the way he described it."
Assistant public defender Kathleen Guneratne, said that, while Britton might not come across as a nice man, the jury should not base its decision on whether they like him or believe him.
Instead, Guneratne said, the jury should decide if Pettigrew presented enough evidence to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the killing was first-degree murder.
"This isn't about who you like, it's not a question about, do we believe him or not," she said. "The question is did the government prove it was not self-defense."
Guneratne said there is just not enough evidence to disprove her client's testimony describing the fight.
The jury will begin deliberating the case Monday.