Testimony Heard in San Francisco Lesbian Murder Trial

  • by Seth Hemmelgarn
  • Sunday July 24, 2016
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Friends of a lesbian who was shot to death in a parking lot near a gay San Francisco nightclub in 2013 described in court how she had put up her hands and pleaded with the suspect before he shot her and a friend.

Melquiesha "Mel" Warren, 23, had been at Club OMG, 43 Sixth Street, celebrating her girlfriend's birthday when Michael Sione Green, 27, allegedly shot her after a minor car crash at about 2 a.m. November 17, 2013.

Green, who's in custody on $50 million bail, faces numerous charges including murder and attempted murder. He fled to Florida after the shooting but was arrested there in May 2014 and extradited to San Francisco.

Testimony in court in recent days indicated that the driver of the car Warren was riding in hit another car in the parking lot, which is near Sixth and Jessie streets.

Marshella Ryan, one of Warren's friends, testified Thursday, July 14 that a woman got out of the car that had been struck and approached the driver of the other vehicle, Warren's friend. She "reached into the car" and struck the woman, Ryan said.

Ryan then wept as she recalled Warren's last moments.

She said Warren got out of the car and walked to the back, where at least one person pushed her. She stumbled, put up her hands, "and said 'Wait,'" Ryan said.

"When she said 'Wait,' she got shot," Ryan, who heard two shots, said.

"After Mel got shot, I ran toward her," she said. "I thought the shooting had stopped," but "then the shooting started again" as the gunman fired on the driver, who was still in the car. Warren died that morning, but the driver survived.

Like the others, Ryan had also picked out the person identified as Green from a video clip.

"I was 100 percent sure," she said. "We looked each other dead in the eye."

When asked whether she saw the shooter in the courtroom, Ryan pointed toward Green and said, "Yeah, there you go."

San Francisco police Inspector Ronan Shouldice testified that police collected 15 .40-caliber bullet casings from the scene.

Photos displayed in court showed a large pool of blood near the vehicle and several places inside the car where bullets had struck.

Girlfriend Describes Shooting

Warren's girlfriend, Tiffany Cohen-Carson, 30, wept throughout her testimony as she recounted the night Warren was killed, frequently dabbing her eyes with Kleenex.

Cohen-Carson said that after the crash, she and a friend approached the car Warren had been riding in, and "we heard a gun click back."

Then, she said, "shots rang out, and as we started scattering, I saw Mel drop to the ground, and we scattered over to her side."

The first shots were followed by "a lot" more, she said.

Cohen-Carson's description of the shooter was similar to what other witnesses shared: A tall man with a long-sleeve black shirt, long hair, and distinctive eyebrows.

She said a man in surveillance video who's been identified as Green was the shooter. The footage is from Club Mezzanine, 444 Jessie Street, which is near the parking lot where Warren was killed and where many of the witnesses had been. Video footage played repeatedly in court shows Green leaving the club just before the shooting.

'Clamming Up'

Some concern had been expressed just before the trial got underway last week that witnesses were being intimidated by at least one Green supporter. Monday, San Francisco Superior Court Judge Loretta Giorgi said the fact that there were "witnesses clamming up when they were free to talk before is of concern to me," although witnesses haven't said they've been threatened.

Tuesday morning, Giorgi told people in the gallery she understood it was an emotional process, but she warned them not to mouth things to witnesses or make faces, or she may have them ejected from the courtroom.

One witness seemed to serve as a prime example of someone whose story now is inconsistent with what she's previously said.

San Francisco police Sergeant Kyra Delaney testified Tuesday that Haunani Tuopo had called her just hours after the shooting to say that she'd witnessed the incident, and she was "100 percent sure" that Green was the suspect.

Tuopo, who'd said "she was scared and wanted to remain anonymous," then texted Delaney a photo of Green that had been taken the night before, Delaney said.

She testified that she and another police investigator then went to San Mateo, where Officer Chris Lewis, who was familiar with Green, confirmed the man in the photo was Green. They then went to Green's home, but they weren't able to locate him.

When Tuopo testified Monday, though, she suggested she wasn't certain about much related to the case.

Tuopo, who was in custody, confirmed that she didn't want to be there, and that she hadn't appeared for court when she was supposed to last week. A warrant had been issued when she failed to show up.

When Assistant District Attorney Heather Trevisan asked Tuopo if she'd seen the shooting, Tuopo took a long pause and said that she had, but she couldn't provide any details. She said she couldn't remember whether she recognized the shooter.

Tuopo confirmed she'd contacted police soon after the incident and identified the shooter, but she didn't know who he was, and she said she didn't recognize him in court. (Giorgi said Tuopo would be released after her testimony.)

In her testimony, Delaney also said that surveillance video showed a white Chevrolet Suburban registered to Green's father leaving the parking lot 15 to 20 minutes before the shooting.

Some described one key car involved in the incident as a black Chrysler 300, but descriptions of the car varied.

After Cohen-Carson's testimony, she and Amanda Buckley, Warren's mother, held each other for several moments.

Buckley, who's been present throughout the trial, sometimes wept as witnesses described her daughter's killing.

At one point, though, she told the Bay Area Reporter , "I'm not scared at all. I'm here to support my child."

Several people who've been in court to support Green declined to comment, and Eileen Burke, Green's attorney, told the B.A.R. to stop trying to talk to them.

It's not clear whether Green will testify in the trial, which began July 13 and is expected to continue into August.