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New Witness To Testify in Willis-Starbuck Hearing By J. DOUGLAS ALLEN-TAYLOR

Tuesday January 31, 2006

Testimony is expected to continue on Tuesday in Alameda County Superior Court in Oakland in a hearing to determine whether two friends of 19-year-old Dartmouth College student Meleia Willis-Starbuck should be bound over to trial for her murder on a Berkeley street. 

On the stand again is expected to be Gregory Mitchell, who was reportedly one of four people present in a car that drove to the scene of Willis-Starbuck’s shooting. Mitchell has been granted immunity by prosecutors for his testimony. 

Christopher Hollis, 22, has been charged with firing the shots that killed Willis-Starbuck in the early morning hours of July 17. Also charged is 21-year-old Berkeley High School graduate Christopher Wilson, whose attorney has admitted that Wilson drove the car that carried Hollis to the shooting scene. 

Hollis is represented by attorney John Burris, Wilson by attorney Elizabeth Grossman, and Mitchell by attorney Lewis Romero. 

Wilson turned himself in to police shortly following the shooting last summer, and has been free on bail for several months. Hollis remained at large for two months, but was arrested following a traffic stop in Fresno. 

Berkeley High graduate Willis-Starbuck, who was living in Berkeley last summer and had planned to return to Dartmouth in the fall, was reportedly in an argument near her College Avenue apartment with a group of men that included several UC Berkeley football players shortly before she was shot and killed. 

Berkeley police have speculated that Hollis and Wilson went to the scene in order to protect Willis-Starbuck from the men. 

A number of friends of both Hollis and Willis-Starbuck have speculated that if Hollis was the shooter, the shooting was accidental. 

“It absolutely could not have been on purpose,” Berkeley High teacher Rick Ayers told the Daily Planet last July. “They were close friends.” Ayers taught both Hollis and Willis-Starbuck while they were students at Berkeley High. 

Dana Johnson, 20, a witness to the shooting who testified at last week’s preliminary hearing, told the Daily Planet last year that as she and Willis-Starbuck approached Willis-Starbuck’s College Avenue apartment on the night of the shooting, they were confronted by a group of five young men who Johnson said “acted disrespectfully” towards the two women. Later, following a heated argument between Willis-Starbuck and the men—some of whom were since identified as UC Berkeley football players—”someone came out of nowhere and fired shots.” 

Willis-Starbuck was active in social justice affairs both at Berkeley High and Dartmouth. Following her death, a memorial scholarship was set up at Berkeley High for graduates who wish to pursue work in social justice. At Dartmouth, Willis-Starbuck was a double major in sociology and African American studies and was active in the Dartmouth Afro-American Society, the Dartmouth Alliance for Children of Color and the Dartmouth College Greens. ›