Oakland Criminal Defense Attorney
Free Consultation 510.894.6626
Ernesto Castillo Represents Man in Berkeley Murder Case

Ernesto Castillo Represents Man in Berkeley Murder Case

BERKELEY, Calif. – On Jan. 23, 2014, Berkeleyside published an article featuring one of attorney Ernesto Castillo's cases involving two cousins slated to face murder charges in the shooting death of Zontee Jones that occurred in West Berkeley last year.

After a short hearing before an Alameda County Superior Court judge last week, which included testimony from two witnesses, Judge Trina Thompson stated that the district attorney's office had presented enough evidence in the murder case against 22-year-old Maurice Thompson Jr. to take the case to trial.

The authorities have alleged that 22-year-old Maurice Thomas Jr., shot and killed Jones, 34, on Feb. 4, 2013 at Delaware Street after an argument occurred between Jones and Jevon Calland, 21, Thomas' cousin, who has also been charged with murder and ordered to face those charges last July. Calland entered a "not guilty" plea shortly thereafter, he was apprehended and arrested in Antioch several weeks earlier.

Thomas was arrested by San Diego police in connection with two unrelated violations on July 4, and has remained in police custody since that time. Thomas was apprehended by the police near the crime scene for several days immediately following Jones' murder, but ultimately released, court records indicate.

According to Alameda County Sherriff's Department, both men are being held without bail in different sections of the Santa Rita Jail. Thomas has secured representation from attorney Ernesto Castillo in the case.

Testimony last week from Calland's sister, Jewaya Calland, stated that Calland and Jones were locked in an ongoing dispute over Calland's girlfriend. Calland's girlfriend had dated Jones approximately five years earlier, according to court testimony from last year. Testimony obtained from Jevon Calland's preliminary hearing last July showed that Calland believed Jones had spread rumors about giving the ex-girlfriend, who now has a child with Colland, a sexually transmitted disease.

Calland testified that the day before Jones' murder, Colland confronted Jones at his Berkeley home on Delaware Street and told him to stop talking about his girlfriend. Last year, one witness who took the stand for the prosecution in July said that Calland had threatened during that conversation to "light up" Jones, although Calland denies having said that.

On Feb. 4, a chance meeting lead to the controversial shooting death of Jones. Jewaya Calland testified that on Feb. 4, there weren't any plans to see Zontee Jones that day when the group met up on San Pablo Avenue at Delaware Street, half a block from where Jones was later shot and killed.

The group, which included Jevon Calland, his sister Jewaya Colland, his girlfriend Trayana Shipman, and Maurice Thomas Jr. were walking westbound on Delaware when Jones drove up in his vehicle shortly before 11 a.m. She claims that the two men spent between 5 and 8 minutes talking in an attempt to resolve their dispute and move forward.

She said that after shaking hands twice, Jones began walking away with what she described as a sarcastic facial expression. She claims that after her brother followed him asking him why he was smirking, that Jones reached into his vehicle and pulled out some kind of a metal bar, identified in court documents as a wrench. She said that during the fracas, Thomas, Castillo's client, shot Jones.

"It happened 'one, two,' before I could even turn around," she said, of the two gunshots she heard. However, she testified that she never actually saw the gun. Jones collapsed on Delaware, where he was ultimately pronounced dead at the scene. Jewaya Calland claimed to have ran to University Avenue, where she boarded a bus and left the area.

At Jevon Calland's preliminary hearing in July, a passenger in Jones' car on the morning of Feb. 4, 2014 had a very different version of events. Michelle French, who had known Jones since childhood, described a situation where Calland had approached Jones, hooking his arm around Jones' shoulder saying, "I need to talk to you now." She said that Jones had tried repeatedly to escape his grip and Jones tried to convince her to move over to the driver's seat, sensing there was a problem.

French said that Jewaya Calland said, "We going to handle the business we came here to handle?"

French said that Jones reached into his vehicle to grab a tire iron – later identified as a wrench – and tried unsuccessfully to swing it. Soon after, Jones and Jewaya Colland separated, but then she saw a scared look come over Jones' face as he started to run east on Delaware. She looked to see what frightened Jones and contrary to other testimony, and the two initial statements to police, she saw Jevon Calland pointing a "little black gun" at Jones.

According to French, when Jones crossed into her blind spot, she heard two shots. She put the car in reverse and began driving east, hoping that Jones wasn't hit. When French saw Jones staggering, she screamed, put the car in park and ran over to him to help. "He was bleeding from his mouth."

French said that when she realized she couldn't help him, she left the crime scene. She was picked up by police for questioning the same week.

At the preliminary hearing in July, Jevon Calland took the stand in his own defense and testified that the shooting was done by Maurice Thomas, his first cousin. Calland did admit however, that he had been arrested in connection to several other incidents including, burglary, possession of stolen property, giving a false name to the police, possession of "six twists of base cocaine," and breaking a store window at a bridal shop in Hayward.

Calland and our client, Thomas are scheduled for a procedural hearing on Feb. 5, which begins the process of moving forward to trial. Attorney Castillo said it's unknown whether the Alameda County District Attorney's Office will decide to try the cases together. In brief closing statements, Ernesto Castillo maintained that Calland was the actual shooter in the case.

During the lengthy cross-examination of Jewaya Calland on Wednesday morning, attorney Castillo indicated that Jewaya acted as the "shot caller," urging the men to fight and physically restraining Jones while he tried to defend himself, rather than as the "peacemaker" during the confrontation. Castillo asked her if she was making up a story to protect her brother, and lying to blame her cousin Thomas.

Facing murder charges? Don't go down without a fight! Contact Oakland criminal defense lawyer, Ernesto Castillo today at (800) 704-8375!


Contact Us Today!

All Consultations are Free and Confidentiad
    • Please enter your first name.
    • Please enter your last name.
    • Please enter your email address.
      This isn't a valid email address.
    • This isn't a valid phone number.
    • Please make a selection.
    • Please enter a message.