In his opening statement Tuesday in the murder trial of Billy Norbury, Mendocino County District Attorney David Eyster described for the jury the “nightmare” scenario where Norbury allegedly shot and killed his Redwood Valley neighbor, Jamal Andrews.
Norbury, 34, faces a murder charge with a special allegation that he used a gun to kill Andrews, 30, on the night of January 24, 2012. Norbury is white, Andrews black.
Eyster, who is prosecuting the case, said Andrews was home that night with his live-in girlfriend of nine years, Miranda Mills, and their eight-month old son when she heard the “distinctive” sound of the all-terrain vehicle (ATV) Norbury allegedly drove to their Road B home shortly after 9:30pm that night.
“The first time (Mills) heard that sound was in September or October of 2011, at 2 o'clock in the morning,” Eyster told the jury. The first time Norbury appeared at the couple's home, he appeared “very disheveled.” During her tearful testimony later Tuesday, Mills said Norbury demanded repeatedly that Andrews come outside, and that he called Andrews “Jamar.” Mills testified that her boyfriend answered Norbury, saying, “I'm not coming outside, I don't know who you are, I don't have a problem with you, and my name's Jamal, not Jamar.”
Norbury, she said, “kept calling him Jamar and telling him to come out … It was the same thing over and over and over again.” She estimated that four or five minutes passed before Norbury left when she'd threatened to call police. Mills described Norbury as looking “like a crackhead” during that visit. Asked to elaborate, she testified that he “looked very unstable” and “didn't look normal.”
The second visit was near Thanksgiving, she testified, when Norbury “appeared sober (and) normal” and apologized for waking and scaring Andrews' family. “Mr. Norbury said he was sorry (and that) he was drunk,” she said. Andrews accepted the apology, Mills testified. “They shook hands, and then (Norbury) left,” Mills said, through tears. During both of those visits, Mills said, Norbury came at night and drove what she identified — by the sound of the engine, not by sight — as an ATV. She testified that she saw Norbury again while shopping in Redwood Valley at Little Bakers Market, where she saw him standing in the checkout line ahead of her, and Norbury turned around and smiled at her.
Norbury's Ukiah defense attorney, Al Kubanis, asked her during his cross-examination how Norbury had smiled at her. “(It was) like a creepy, perverted smile,” Mills said.
Kubanis asked her what was creepy about the smile.
“I was creeped out by him in general,” she said, and, prompted again by Kubanis, she added, “It was very flirtatious; it wasn't a normal, Hi, how are you doing' smile.”
Mills testified that she then took her infant son and went to the back of the store until Norbury left, having purchased what she described as a 12-pack of beer.
Mills also described Norbury's third and final visit to the home she shared with Andrews. She said she had just put her son to bed when she again heard the ATV engine she associated with Norbury. “I said, ‘Are you kidding me?’” Mills said. Andrews, who was shirtless on the living room couch, put on a hoodie and went outside, she said. Mills said she grabbed the phone, as she had on both of Norbury's previous visits, “because I was scared.”
Andrews walked to the locked gate, out of the range of a motion-sensitive light on the driveway. Mills told the court that she heard Andrews say, “Are you serious?” The next thing she heard was a gunshot, she said. Mills saw Andrews running toward the front door with a “worried and scared” look on his face, then heard another gunshot and saw a flash of light near the gate, and saw Andrews fall to the ground. She heard another shot as he fell, she testified. Mills said she crouched behind the door “because I thought he (Norbury) was going to shoot at me,” coming out only when she heard the ATV drive away.
Four people at a home next door also took the stand Tuesday and testified that they heard one gunshot, a pause and two more. Neighbor Stephanie Bartman testified that she came to Andrews' aid, holding blankets to a through-and-through gunshot wound to Andrews' right shoulder. She said Andrews also had a gunshot wound to his head, later described by Mendocino County Sheriff's Office deputy Robert Moore as a fatal wound. Eyster also said during his opening remarks that Norbury told officers during his arrest that he had been home all night, then later admitted he had been at Taylor's Tavern.
Eyster said he would show video of how Norbury's story “breaks down.” “What you're going to hear is, ‘I wasn't there, and if I was, I'm insane’.” Kubanis reserved his opening comments until later in the trial.
The trial is expected to last three weeks, and will include a phase where the jury will decide the question of Norbury's sanity (assuming he’s found guilty). Norbury in July changed his not-guilty plea to one of not guilty by reason of insanity (commonly called an NGI plea). The trial continued Wednesday with Kubanis' cross-examination of Mills, to be followed by testimony from three sheriff's deputies who were at the scene the night of the shooting.
Evidence bearing on murder suspect Billy Norbury's relationship with his estranged wife and their divorce will show his motive for allegedly killing his Redwood Valley neighbor if the judge on Thursday deems it admissible in the ongoing trial, Mendocino County District Attorney David Eyster said in court Wednesday. Norbury, 34, faces a murder charge with a special allegation that he used a gun to kill Andrews, 30, on the night of Jan. 24. “It will show motive … and malice aforethought,” Eyster told Mendocino County Superior Court Judge John Behnke, who set the hearing on whether to allow the evidence for Thursday morning.
The evidence in question includes two voicemails Norbury left for his estranged wife Feb. 20 and 21, just days before he allegedly shot and killed Jamal Andrews, along with a conversation overheard on Feb. 17 and a statement Norbury's wife wrote in a request for a restraining order she filed Feb. 8. The statement, according to Eyster, referred to a Feb. 24 newspaper article concerning her husband's arrest in Andrews' death. “‘He used to accuse me of having something to do with a guy up the road’,” Eyster said, reading the words of Norbury's wife, Brittany Norbury, in court before the jury was seated in the courtroom Wednesday morning.
Eyster argued that those words, coupled with the angry voicemails and the overheard conversation, indicate that the shooting was part of Norbury's efforts to intimidate his wife, who had filed for divorce in February 2011.
“This woman was being abused and intimidated by the defendant,” Eyster said. “What effect does it have on a person who has been accused of having an affair with someone up the road when their spouse goes up the road and kills (that person)?” In question is whether the evidence is protected as privileged communication between a married couple. Behnke said he could allow the evidence on the record “if I'm convinced it was part and parcel with a program to intimidate Brittany Norbury, or if other evidence supports a finding that the statements weren't intended to be confidential.”
Norbury's Ukiah defense attorney, Al Kubanis, questioned Andrews' live-in girlfriend, Miranda Mills, Wednesday morning during his continued cross-examination about whether Andrews had been faithful. Kubanis asked Mills if she had checked Andrews' cell phone for “phone numbers you did not recognize.” Mills said she had not. “I trusted him; I didn't need to,” she said, later redirected by Eyster.
Kubanis asked if “women or irate boyfriends” had called the house Mills and Andrews shared, and Mills said there had been no such calls. Kubanis had also asked Tuesday, when Mills took the witness stand, if other women had been hanging around Andrews when they met at a reggae concert where he was a performer in 2004. Mills said there hadn't been. Asked by Kubanis Tuesday if she knew Brittany Norbury or knew what she looked like, Mills said she did not. Mills also said on the stand, at Kubanis' prompting, that there had been marijuana plants growing on the property where she and Andrews lived the summer prior. She said she didn't know how many when asked if there were 29 plants or fewer growing. “I didn't look; I was pregnant,” Mills said. Questioned about an indoor grow and whether she had spoken with a deputy about it the night of the shooting, Mills said she didn't remember.
Also on the witness stand Wednesday were three Mendocino County Sheriff's Office employees who responded the night of the shooting to arrest Billy Norbury and investigate. Deputy Donald Scott said he had knocked on Norbury's bedroom door and immediately entered, finding Norbury lying down with his eyes closed. Scott said in the ensuing conversation he saw that Norbury had chewing tobacco in his mouth and that he didn't appear drowsy.
Deputy Luis Espinoza said he found an all-terrain vehicle at the Norbury home that was warm to the touch on the cold night, and saw wet mud on the vehicle, along with fresh tire tracks from Road B to the driveway.
Deputy Jeremy Verdot showed the jury the firing action of the 30-30 Winchester rifle found leaning against a wall at the Norbury home that night, believed to be the murder weapon. He saw a gray film and smelled gunpowder at the end of the rifle's barrel, indicating the gun had been recently fired, he said. Three 30-30 shell casings were found outside Andrews' gate, witnesses testified Tuesday.
Those shell casings matched Norbury’s rifle, the presumed murder weapon, according to a state criminologist who testified later on Thursday.
The prosecution finished presenting evidence Monday morning and the defense began calling witnesses.
Mendocino County District Attorney David Eyster rested his case after Mendocino County Superior Court Judge John Behnke read the jury a stipulation both sides had agreed to about a fingerprint of Norbury's found on the 30-30 Winchester rifle used in the shooting.
Norbury's Ukiah defense attorney, Al Kubanis, told the jury he would present evidence having less to do with the question of Norbury's guilt, “but more as to what Mr. Norbury's mental state was at the time of the incident.” Norbury in July changed his not-guilty plea to one of not guilty by reason of insanity (commonly called an NGI plea). If the jury finds Norbury guilty, the same jury will then hear evidence from Kubanis and decide whether Norbury was insane at the time of the shooting.
Kubanis on Monday called to the stand Korey Williams, who was Norbury's best friend in high school, and who had lived with the family for about six years starting when the two were 16 years old.
Williams testified that Norbury had a drinking problem back then that started before he moved in and continued afterward. Williams said he had tried to help on more than one occasion, and one night had received a phone call between 1 a.m. and 2 a.m. from Norbury, “because he was drunk and was having issues with a girlfriend over another guy. I had to go get him due to his being drunk and violent.” Norbury was “inside someone's home trying to find someone” when he arrived, Williams testified.
Williams, who, Kubanis clarified for the record is a black man, told the jury he and Norbury were “like brothers.”
Despite early speculation that the killing was racially motivated -- Andrews was black, Norbury is white -- Eyster had maintained since the case began moving through the court system that the evidence at trial would show a different motive.
Eyster said last week that the evidence shows Norbury allegedly shot Andrews “because he thought there was something going on between (his wife) ... and Jamal.”
Andrews' live-in girlfriend, Miranda Mills, had testified at the outset of the trial that the night of the shooting was Norbury's third visit to the couple's Road B home in Redwood Valley, and that he had on the first visit demanded that Andrews come outside.
Also on the stand was Roxanne Graziano, a neighbor of Norbury's who testified that he had made unwanted visits to her house, and had acted “hostile” when she rejected him.
Graziano described one occasion just weeks before the shooting when Norbury came into her home uninvited at about 1 a.m. or 2 a.m., after having called sounding drunk and wanting come to her house and talk. She had told him “no,” she said.
Graziano said she woke up about an hour later to the sound of her daughter screaming.
“He was standing in the hallway; it was scary,” Graziano said.
As with the first voicemail left for his estranged wife and the second apologizing, and the first visit to Andrews' and Mills' home demanding that Andrews come outside and the second visit to apologize, Norbury would apologize after visiting Graziano unannounced, she said on the stand.
Four days after Norbury entered Graziano's home uninvited, he called and asked if she was still mad, Graziano testified.
“Anytime I accepted his apology it encouraged him ... so I stopped being friendly,” she said. When she didn't accept his apology, Norbury got mad, swearing at her and calling her a name, she said.
Graziano said she had called Norbury's aunt to discuss the disturbing behavior, and the call “was not received well at all.” She had intended to talk to Norbury's grandparents, she said, but hadn't had a chance.
Kubanis also called to the stand a state Department of Justice criminalist, who he had told the jury would discuss Norbury's high blood-alcohol level on the night of the shooting and would testify that “the notion of tolerance to alcohol is a myth.” Kubanis said he also plans to call to the stand on Tuesday a psychiatrist who will testify that Norbury is a paranoid schizophrenic.
Courtesy, Ukiah Daily Journal.