Jury Still Out in San Francisco Lesbian Murder Trial

  • by Seth Hemmelgarn
  • Saturday August 20, 2016
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Jurors continued deliberating this week in San Francisco Superior Court in the trial of a man accused of fatally shooting a lesbian in the city almost three years ago, weighing the testimony of several eyewitnesses against discrepancies highlighted by the defendant's attorney.

Michael Sione Green, 26, is charged with murder, attempted murder, and seven other counts in the fatal shooting of Melquiesha "Mel" Warren, 23, November 17, 2013 near the gay Club OMG nightclub. A friend of Warren's was also shot but survived. The incident occurred after a minor collision in a parking lot.

The jury got the case last Thursday, after attorneys completed their closing arguments.

Assistant District Attorney Heather Trevisan told jurors, "The real heart of this case is eyewitness identification."

Trevisan reminded jurors that several people had identified Green as the killer, and while descriptions of the shooter hadn't been perfectly consistent, people who saw the shooting had remembered his face.

She also noted that Green had gone to Florida after the shooting, and said he'd lost weight and cut his hair, among other changes to his physical appearance.

"These are not the actions of an innocent man," she said.

"Why would you go across the country, drastically change your appearance," and ditch your cellphone, as records indicate Green did, unless "you know you killed someone and you know people saw you do it."

Green didn't testify during the trial. Police arrested him in Miami in May 2014 and brought him back to San Francisco after he fought extradition. He's currently in custody on $50 million bail.

Eileen Burke, Green's attorney, sought to instill doubt among jurors that Green was the killer.

Burke said that in witnesses' descriptions, the shooter "is taller and heavier than Mike, consistently. ... You can't prove to me beyond a reasonable doubt that he's this guy's size."

She also referred to witnesses who had testified the shooter wore a black shirt or jacket, while Green had worn a blue shirt that night.

Warren's friends, many of whom had seen her get shot, testified that they'd been prohibited from speaking to each other in the hours after the shooting about what they had seen, and police confirmed that. Many of Warren's friends also testified that they'd had little, if anything, to drink that night.

But during the trial, Burke repeatedly suggested that Warren's friends had provided similar descriptions of the suspect after comparing notes with each other, and she'd also implied they had been intoxicated.

It was "ridiculous to suggest" that witnesses had merely comforted each other after the shooting and not shared descriptions, she said in her closing arguments.

Additionally, Burke said, referring to Warren's friends, "I'm not saying they're crazy drunk, but let's be real." She noted that they had stayed at the bar until closing time.

Trevisan said, "It defies reason to believe" it was all "a coincidence" that the witnesses, who included people outside Warren's group, had identified Green as the suspect. She said that no other suspect had been identified.

"This is not some great conspiracy to get Mr. Green," she said.

Trevisan also pointed to instances where witnesses had expressed fear about testifying.

Haunani Tuopo, who had contacted police the morning of the shooting and identified Green as the killer, was arrested after she failed to appear in court and was in custody at the time she testified.

During that testimony, when Trevisan asked Tuopo whether she'd seen the shooting, Tuopo took a long pause and said that she had, but she couldn't provide any details. She also said she couldn't remember whether she recognized the shooter.

Funaki Moala, who knew Green before the shooting and who'd talked to him in the parking lot just before the incident, testified that before the trial someone had told her to "stop talking shit about Mike" and beaten her.

Last Thursday, the court reporter read to jurors the transcript of Moala's testimony, along with the testimony of Marshella Ryan, a friend of Warren's who had said she was "100 percent sure" Green was the killer and had identified him in court as the shooter. The reading indicated that the jury had requested to hear the testimony again.

Green was recently accused of trying to smuggle a cellphone into the jail. The sheriff's department is investigating the incident.