The defense attorney for a former Navy-enlisted man from Oakland who's accused of killing five young women in the East Bay over a four-month span in 1985 told jurors today that he doesn't think the murders were premeditated.
In his closing argument in Anthony McKnight's death penalty trial in Alameda County Superior Court, defense attorney Alex Selvin said, "We don't have any evidence for first-degree murder because all of the evidence in this case is circumstantial."
McKnight testified last week that he never met any of the women, whose ages ranged from 13 to 24, Selvin said.
Selvin said that if jurors don't think the murders were premeditated and weren't committed during a felony, such as rape or sodomy, they must convict McKnight only of second-degree murder, not first-degree murder.
McKnight, 54, who lived in Oakland and was assigned to the Alameda Naval Air Station, faces the death penalty because he's charged with five counts of murder plus six special circumstances clauses, which are for committing murder during rape and sodomy and for multiple murder.
If jurors convict McKnight of murder with special circumstances, there will be a separate penalty phase at which jurors will choose between recommending the death penalty or life in prison.
But McKnight won't face the death penalty if he's only convicted of second-degree murder.
The circumstantial evidence in the case largely consists of DNA evidence, such as McKnight's semen, which prosecutor Jim Meehan says connects McKnight to all the alleged murders.
Meehan told jurors in his closing argument on Wednesday that in three of the cases, only one in 27 billion people have the same genetic profile as McKnight and the semen samples found on each of the three bodies.
He said that in the other two cases, only one in 174 trillion people had the same genetic profile as that which was found on the two bodies.
McKnight is already serving a 63-year term in state prison because he was convicted in August 1987 of 11 felony counts, including attempted murder, mayhem, kidnapping and forced oral copulation, for attacks on six prostitutes between 1984 and his arrest in January 1986.
After he began serving his prison sentence, authorities used new DNA analysis techniques to connect McKnight to the alleged murders, which occurred between September and December of 2005.
The incidents took place in secluded locations in Oakland, Emeryville, Berkeley and Richmond.
Bay City News