Defense attorney John Burris, representing the accused murderer of Meleia Willis-Starbuck ’07, said on April 13 that he will not take the case to trial as previously expected. This move could be a precursor to his client, Christopher Hollis, changing his plea of not guilty.
In the preliminary homicide hearings that concluded Feb. 10, Burris had claimed that Hollis fired shots merely to scare away the seven University of California Berkeley football players who had engaged in an argument with Willis-Starbuck and her friends. Hollis considered Willis-Starbuck a close friend whom he referred to as his sister.
Burris changed his rhetoric Thursday, in the most recent trial delay in a series that began with Hollis’ two-month evasion of the police, by asking Alameda County Superior Court Judge Don Clay to schedule a court date to either pursue a trial or change Hollis’ plea of not guilty. Clay scheduled the date for June 7.
Burris would not say whether he planned to change Hollis’ plea to guilty, but confirmed to the Contra Costa Times that no trial would take place with him acting as attorney. Richard Moore, the deputy district attorney handling the case, told the Contra Costa Times that a plea of no contest or guilty would entail a sentence between 15 years to life imprisonment for Hollis.
Burris could not be reached and did not return phone calls from The Dartmouth.
Hollis faces murder and assault charges for the July 17 shooting. Christopher Wilson, who drove the getaway car and was originally charged with murder, received a lesser charge — accessory to murder after the fact — in exchange for testimony that implicated his friend. His sentence will likely involve probation as opposed to jail time.
Wilson testified in the preliminary homicide hearings that Hollis said upon reentering the vehicle that he “just scared those dudes away.” It wasn’t until the next morning it began to sink in what had happened.
“I think I just smoked my sister,” Wilson quoted Hollis as saying. “I feel like smoking myself.”