SAN FRANCISCO (KTVU/BCN) - Emotions erupted in a San Francisco courtroom today as chilling new audio from a surveillance video of a deadly shooting and stabbing at Jewelry Mart was played in court.
An Antioch man accused of killing two women in the San Francisco Gift Center & JewelryMart and nearly killing another man attempted to fire his public defender this afternoon shortly before his case went to the jury
Barry White, 27, is charged with murder and attempted murder for the July 12, 2013 attacks in Victoga Inc. jewelry, located inside the JewelryMart complex at 888 Brannan St., in which he allegedly killed employees Lina Lim, 51, and Khin Min, 35 and shot and stabbed store owner Victor Hung.
Some family members of Lim and Min ran out of the courtroom when prosecutors showed a graphic video of their killings, which had been synced with the sound of the shots and screams for the first time.
"It was like I feel the knife putting on her throat. That's why I was really shocked and I heard the bullet and I feel her fear. I feel her fear for her life." said Lim's cousin, Lisa Zhou.
Deputy Public Defender Kwixuan Maloof did not dispute that White committed the attacks during the trial.
White's attorneys said the charges should be downgraded to manslaughter. The prosecution says the injury was scalp wound and that White's actions were "cold and calculating".
Instead, he presented evidence from multiple witnesses that White, who was shot in the shoulder and the back of the head by Antioch police in 2009, suffered from brain damage or a mental disorder that affected his
judgment, reasoning and impulse control.
Experts differed on whether that disorder was frontal lobe damage, schizophrenia, post-traumatic stress disorder or a personality disorder, but in the end it amounted to the same thing, Maloof said.
"He simply could not think things through because he did not have the mental capacity to do so," Maloof said, arguing that White could not be found guilty of first-degree murder because it required a greater degree of
intent than he had displayed.
"This case is about Barry's mental state, it's always been about Barry's mental state," he said.
Before Maloof could present closing arguments today, however, White, who did not testify during the trial, asked the judge if he could instead speak for himself.
Judge Ethan Schulman asked if he meant to fire his defense attorney, and White said "It depends if I get due process or not. We could both do it."
"I don't even know the law," White acknowledged, before requesting that he be allowed to represent himself.
Ultimately, Schulman denied the request on the grounds that it was untimely, being made in the midst of closing arguments after a seven-week trial.
Maloof used White's behavior during the trial as further evidence for his mental disorder, telling jurors today that he had also chosen to withdraw an insanity plea some weeks into the trial, against the advice of his attorney.
Schulman instructed jurors to disregard that statement, however, after an objection from the prosecution.
Assistant District Attorney Diane Knoles countered the defense arguments about White's mental state by arguing that White had brought a gun, a knife and extra ammunition to Victoga on the day of the attacks and snuck into JewelryMart.
"Even if the defendant had a frontal lobe syndrome, he can still form a plan by the evidence shown in the case," Knoles said.
Knoles played clips of surveillance video from the store, combined with audio recorded next door, which showed the attacks in graphic detail.
White, who was angry because he believed Hung had shortchanged him by hundreds of dollars on a custom gold chain he had ordered, can be seen on video waiting until other customers leave before he approaches the counter and opens fire on Hung and Lim.
After running out of bullets, he slashed Min's throat as she tried to escape and then followed Hung and Lim into a storeroom to attack them with a knife, leaving Lim nearly decapitated. Hung was badly injured but survived.
"This case is so savage, this case is so evil, that you really only have one option, and that's first degree murder," Knoles said.
White also faces six counts of attempted murder and other felony charges for allegedly firing on police officers as they arrived at the scene.
None of the officers were injured in the incident, and Maloof today disputed whether White was actually shooting at them.
The trial, coming nearly four years after the murders, has been heavily attended by members of Lim and Khin's large, close-knit families, some of whom reacted emotionally and fled the courtroom when the video was
played in court.
Zhao, said she wanted to stare White down when she saw him in court.
"I want him to feel something, I want him to feel like, he needs to know that he did something wrong," Zhao said. "He has no feeling for anybody, that's all I can see."
"No matter what the outcome of this trial, it still won't heal the wounds and bring my sister back, but it is up to the jurors to decide his fate," said Ning Chui, Lim's brother.
"I feel that they need to give him first degree murder, otherwise it's not justice," said Zhao.
White was out of custody on bail at the time of the shooting on pending charges connected with the 2009 police shooting.
He is alleged to have rammed a patrol car in Antioch in that incident, prompting an officer to open fire, but in 2011 filed a federal civil rights lawsuit disputing the police version of events.
Zhao today said the family felt it was an "injustice" that White had been released from jail in that case, allowing him to kill her cousin. She said they hoped to see him locked up for life without parole.
Closing arguments concluded this afternoon. White remains in custody without bail.