February 24, 2024
Deangelo Cortijo, 30, clashed frequently with both the trial judge and prosecutor during his 2021 trial.

OAKLAND — A California appeals court has ruled against a local justice reform activist who was convicted of murder, won his appeal in 2020, and re-convicted in 2021, court records show.

Deangelo Cortijo, 30, was convicted twice of murdering his sister’s ex-boyfriend, 26-year-old Oakland resident Jamad Jerkins, in a shooting outside the sister’s apartment. Cortijo argued at trial that he believed Jerkins was about to attack him and that the shooting was self-defense.

The First Appellate District’s 39-page decision found that Judge Don Clay did not err by refusing to grant a continuance when Cortijo claimed he needed time to recover from a beating at the hands of Alameda County deputies inside the jail, so that he could call defense witnesses. The appeals court justices also found that the prosecution’s cross-examination of Cortijo was not improper, as he argued.

“(Cortijo) made no offer of proof demonstrating that the facts he expected to prove by the testimony of any available or intended witnesses were material to his defense and would not be cumulative of other evidence,” the decision says.

Jerkins was fatally shot in 2016, after allegedly banging on the door of Cortijo’s sister’s apartment while Cortijo was there babysitting her kids. The two argued outside the apartment and Cortijo shot Jerkins with a revolver, according to prosecution witness testimony.

Cortijo was convicted of murder in 2018. In 2020, an appeals court reversed it, writing that the very first prosecution had tainted the whole trial by suggesting there was a prior incident where Cortijo had pulled a gun on someone. The Alameda County District Attorney’s office re-tried Cortijo the following year.

The second trial was contentious. Cortijo, serving as his own attorney, clashed frequently with Clay. The two would yell over each other in jurors’ presence and Cortijo continually interrupted the prosecutor, then flat out refused to come to court because of the alleged jail assault. In one argument with Clay, Cortijo moved for a mistrial three times in a row, then agreed to proceed in not-so-polite fashion after Clay denied the motion.

“If that’s what it is, I want my voice to be heard, Your Honor, and I want my witnesses to come,” Cortijo said. “So, you know what, man? Screw it. I’ll get on the stand. Screw it.”

Cortijo is serving a life sentence in California State Prison, Sacramento and eligible for parole in 2035.

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