Man convicted of special circumstance murder in 1993 Oakland Sizzler slaying

OAKLAND, Calif. (BCN) -- A 61-year-old man was convicted Monday of first-degree murder with special circumstances for the fatal shooting of the manager of a Sizzler restaurant in Oakland during an attempted robbery 22 years ago.

Jurors deliberated for only about a day before announcing their verdict against Charles Luckett for the slaying of Anthoney Vaughn, 28, during an attempted robbery at the Sizzler at 2710 Telegraph Ave. at about 10:45 p.m. on July 16, 1993.

The special circumstance is committing a murder during the course of an attempted robbery.

Luckett faces life in prison without the possibility of parole when he is sentenced by Alameda County Superior Court Judge Vernon Nakahara on June 12.

Prosecutor Danielle Hilton told jurors in her closing argument last week that Luckett got away with murder for many years until DNA evidence that was developed in 2012 tied him to the crime and he was arrested.

"I'm really happy that justice was finally served even though it was 22 years in the making," Hilton said after the verdict.

Luckett's attorney, Theodore Berry, said in his closing argument that the testimony of an eyewitness who said Luckett was one of the two culprits who participated in the attempted robbery and fatal shooting is unreliable because he said he was only 95 percent sure that Luckett was involved.

Berry said, "95 percent is not proof beyond a reasonable doubt."

The defense attorney also said the DNA evidence against Luckett is questionable because he believes Oakland police did a poor job of collecting and preserving the evidence in the case.

The DNA evidence that ties Luckett to the crime came from a cigarette butt that was snuffed out on a potato on a plate at the table where the two suspects were sitting, Hilton said.

She said she thinks the DNA evidence is strong because it found that there was only a 1 in 9.7 trillion chance that the DNA came from someone other than Luckett.

Hilton said two armed suspects came to the Sizzler on the night of July 16, 1993, had dinner, waited patiently and then complained that there was hair in their food and demanded to see Vaughn, the manager.

The prosecutor said one of the suspects went to the manager's office and the other pulled out his gun and ordered the restaurant's patrons, including a young mother and her baby, to lie on the ground.

The suspect who remained inside the main part of the restaurant told the suspect who was with Vaughn to "kill him, bust him" and then Vaughn was shot and killed, prosecutors said.

Oakland police set up a perimeter after the fatal shooting and arrested a suspect about two blocks away. That suspect was arrested and charged with murder, but Alameda County prosecutors dismissed the case against him before it went to trial.

Hilton said it's not clear if Luckett was the suspect who killed Vaughn, but even if he was only the accomplice, he's equally guilty of murder because he was an active participant in the crime.

Luckett testified that he couldn't have participated in the crime because he was living in Los Angeles at the time, but Hilton said she thinks Luckett was lying and he didn't provide any evidence to back up his claim that he wasn't in Oakland.