Deliberations begin on murder of Oakland postal worker

Jurors on Wednesday will begin deliberating the fate of three men accused of murdering a man who was on his way to work at the Oakland Post Office because they wanted to steal the fancy 20-inch rims on the car he was riding in.

Prosecutor Angela Backers said 21-year-old Lamar Whitehead “was a good man on his way to work” on the overnight shift when he was shot in the 3900 block of Webster Street near Mosswood Park in Oakland about 11 p.m. on Jan. 27, 2005.

Defendants Terrell Watson, 21, Ishmael Johnson, 22, both of Oakland, and Jason Tyree West, 20, of Vallejo, are charged with murder, attempted murder and the special circumstance of murder during an attempted carjacking.

Watson is also charged with trying to dissuade a witness in the case.

If they're convicted of all the charges, the three defendants will be sentenced to life in prison without parole. Prosecutors aren't seeking the death penalty in the case.

Backers said Whitehead, the only child of Robin Douglas of Oakland, was a passenger in a Chevrolet Monte Carlo driven by his best friend Keith Griffin, who was giving him a ride to work, when shots rang out.

Backers said the three defendants “had talked about stealing rims” and Johnson “set up” the shooting by pointing out the car.

The prosecutor said Watson opened fire first and West also fired shots after Johnson shouted, “Shoot! Shoot! Shoot!”

The bullet that killed Johnson first went through Griffin and then struck Whitehead, she said.

Griffin survived the shooting incident and testified against the three defendants.

In his closing argument today, West's attorney, James Giller, attacked the credibility of the prosecution's witnesses, saying, “That's what this case is all about.”

Giller said he doesn't think that West even had a gun that night but he told jurors that even if they think West fired shots, those shots occurred after Watson started shooting and he believes Whitehead was killed by Watson's shots.

Giller said, “I submit that my client didn't have a gun and fire shots, but even if he did, the deed was already done.”

Giller said, “Jason had no part in this and did not kill Lamar or attempt to murder Keith Griffin. I ask youto find him not guilty.”

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