A Santa Clara County jury today convicted DeShawn Campbell of second-degree murder for killing San Jose police Officer Jeffrey Fontana.
The conviction brought to an end a case that began more than seven years ago, in October 2001, when Campbell shot Fontana once in the head at close range after a nighttime traffic stop. The DA's office originally had filed capital charges, leading to substantial appellate litigation.
Deputy District Attorney Lane Liroff kept his prosecution on track despite years of controversy, first over a conflict in the county public defender’s office and then over whether Campbell was mentally retarded.
The circumstances fit … after the jump.
Reached in his car on his way home this afternoon to nurse a flu, Liroff said he was excited that the case was over and had ended with a win. He credited the strength of the circumstantial evidence he presented for leading to Campbell’s conviction.
At trial, according to news reports, Campbell’s attorney, Edward Sousa, tried to convince the jury that Campbell hadn’t shot Fontana and that a friend of Campbell’s who was riding with him that night (and who has since skipped town) was the one who did it.
Liroff poked holes in Campbell’s defense. “It was DeShawn’s car, it was DeShawn’s dad’s gun, DeShawn’s keys were in the car,” he said. The jury deliberated for six days before delivering its verdict and also found Campbell guilty of being a felon in possession of a firearm.
Sousa did not return an e-mail and phone call seeking comment. In 2008, he successfully argued that Campbell was mentally retarded, which ruled out the death penalty in his case.
Judge Diane Northway has scheduled a sentencing hearing for Aug. 7.
— Evan Hill