On a recent morning, an ex-convict named Debonaire Dobbz sat shackled to a chair in an Oakland courtroom, charged with murder in a shooting a year ago.
"This is not a whodunit. This is not a whodunit case--that’s the tragic element of this," says Tim Murphy, the public defender representing Dobbz. He says a contractor renovating a house in East Oakland gave Dobbz a shotgun and some money and told him to keep an eye on the property. One night, Murphy says, Dobbz spotted a man who appeared to be stealing from the house.
"And a confrontation ensued, wherein my client discharged a shotgun, and shooting the individual at close range in the stomach. ..." Murphy trails off. The individual shot during the confrontation was Lonnie Turbin, 35, the older brother of Seattle Seahawks running back Robert Turbin. Dobbz has pleaded not guilty and is due back in court next month.
The story is tragic--one of Oakland's 130-plus cases last year in which someone was shot, beaten, or stabbed to death (or, in one case, deliberately run over by a driver.)
It's also unusual. That's because it's among the relatively few times police "cleared" one of last year's homicide cases (by the state Department of Justice definition, a case is cleared when a suspect is arrested and charged). The Oakland Police Department says it has cleared 28 percent of last year's homicides. By comparison, the statewide average in 2010, the most recent year for which numbers are available, was 64 percent.