MARTINEZ -- The self-described "unremorseful" killer of two people at the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge toll plaza refused to answer his prosecutor's questions Monday, and instead spoke ad nauseam that he wanted to plead guilty and stop wasting time on his trial.
Then, once again, death penalty defendant Nathan Burris changed his mind.
"I need all my appeals in tact -- sorry," said Burris, a 49-year-old Richmond resident acting as his own attorney in the trial over the Aug. 11, 2009, slayings of Caltrans toll taker Deborah "Debbie" Ross and Golden Gate bus driver Ersie "Chuckie" Everette.
"I'm not going to run to the execution chamber -- that's not smart."
Burris was angry over his breakup with Ross, 51, and jealous of her friendship with Everette when he stalked and killed the pair, a prosecutor said. Burris said he first fatally shot Everette, a 58-year-old San Leandro resident, in the toll plaza parking lot and then spontaneously ran to Ross' toll booth and gunned her down as she was on duty.
Chief assistant district attorney Harold Jewett on Monday tried to question Burris about his use of binoculars to watch Everette from afar before the shooting, and a report that he held Ross hostage in her home for four days before he killed her.
Burris, wearing a wide grin and occasionally giggling, rebuffed cross-examination attempts and said all the jury needs to know is what he's already told them during his testimony.
Burris claimed on the witness stand that Ross and Everette were romantically involved. He said Everette once threatened him on the phone, though he wasn't specific, and that he needed to "get him before he gets me."
The victims' families say Everette and Ross were friends through the Acts Full Gospel Church in Oakland, where Ross was a loyal parishioner and Everette was a deacon studying to be a pastor.
The final witness before the prosecution and defense rested Monday was Tyrice Ross, one of Debbie Ross' six sisters. She testified that before Ross ended her 14-year relationship with Burris, she discovered that he was cheating on her with a young woman in Texas while away as a long-haul truck driver.
Burris lost that job, and then lost a shuttle job that Ross secured for him. Ross was paying all of Burris' bills and allowing him to live in her house rent free when she told him that she wanted out of the relationship.
Tyrice Ross said Debbie Ross was packing to move into her Oakland home Aug. 7, 2009, when Debbie called and said Burris would not let her leave the home. He eventually did -- after Tyrice Ross called Richmond police and reported her sister was being held hostage.
Burris apologized that weekend with a greeting card, a dozen roses and a box of See's candies, Tyrice Ross testified. Two days later, he killed her.
Burris briefly retook the witnesses stand after the sister's testimony to say Ross was not moving out, contrary to all her boxes of packed belongings, and that he never held her hostage. Burris, who has continually mocked capital punishment during the trial and calls his jail cell his apartment, repeated that whether he gets the death penalty or life in prison without parole, he's going to be just fine.
"Why are you smiling?," Jewett asked.
"I'm alive. I'm happy to be alive. Why not smile?" Burris replied. "I did cry back then but no more."
Jewett and Burris will give their closing arguments Tuesday morning. If jurors convict Burris of first-degree murder and at least one special circumstance, the penalty phase of the trial will follow.
Contact Malaika Fraley at 925-234-1684. Follow her at Twitter.com/malaikafraley.