Defendant Justin Howard looks on as Judge Samuel Feng goes over evidence with his defense and prosecutors Wednesday. (Mike Koozmin/S.F. Examiner)

Jurors hear closing arguments in 2014 drive by murder trial

A San Francisco jury must decide if a Richmond man is guilty of murder for the killing of a 25-year-old man in the Mission.

Justin Howard, 26, originally of San Francisco, stands charged with murder and a firearm enhancement for allegedly killing 25-year-old Dominic Anderson on June 13, 2014.

Closing arguments were made Wednesday in Judge Samuel Feng’s Superior Courtroom by Assistant District Attorney John Rowland and Deputy Public Defender Vilaska Nguyen.

The prosecution’s argument centered on a ream of cell tower and surveillance evidence showing Howard’s car and cell phone moving from his home to the scene of the shooting that morning.

“The defendant shot and killed Dominic Anderson,” said Rowland, pointing out the circumstantial evidence presented in the case.

He also attacked Howard’s credibility, calling the defendant’s alibi an “elaborate hoax” which cannot be trusted, stating that he lied repeatedly and changed his story about where he was that day because he was “trying to fool the police because he doesn’t want to go to jail.”

But the defense argued the burden of proof falls on the prosecution to prove beyond a reasonable doubt Howard killed Anderson.

“He wasn’t there,” said Nguyen about the shooting, no matter how Rowland tried to discredit Howard’s statements on the stand. “He can’t shift the burden and put everything on Justin’s words,” added Nguyen about Rowland’s claims that Howard cannot be trusted.

THE SHOOTING

Both sides disagreed upon the meaning of the evidence in the case, but are less at odds when it comes to the events of the case.

On June 13 around 9:30 a.m., Anderson was dropping his friend off for an appointment at Walden House on 15th Street in the Mission. As she went inside, he waited in a white
convertible Chrysler.

About a half hour before, someone drove Howard’s purple Lexus over the Bay Bridge, according to video surveillance. Moments later the car owned by the mother of Howard’s children passed through the toll plaza.

Cell phone towers also picked up the number associated with Howard’s cell phone moving into the The City and then the Mission. Surveillance cameras then recorded some of that purple Lexus’ progress through the Mission.

As Anderson sat in the convertible, the Lexus rolled by. Surveillance footage played in court showed the car back up as the driver fired a .40 caliber automatic pistol multiple times at Anderson, who died from the wounds. The Lexus then sped away and one witness said he saw a bald black man in his 20s driving the car.

Cell towers tracked the car’s progress as it headed into East Oakland. Police later found the car, but it had been torched.

Later that day, Howard called police to report that his car had been stolen. He told a dispatcher he’d parked his car in front of Highland Hospital in Oakland the previous night. He had to stop driving, he said, because of an arm injury. He had to come by the hospital for treatment during the early the morning hours of the same day the shooting happened.

But Howard soon changed his story, saying that he’d lent his car and his cell phone to his cousin, Paris Anderson, who was shot dead in November 2014.

Howard was arrested in a predawn raid in Richmond on July 18.

The jury is expected to have a verdict within a week.

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