2 Men Convicted In Murder of Homeless Woman

By Bay City News
Tuesday September 26, 2006

Two 19-year-old men were convicted today of second-degree murder for beating and kicking a 100-pound homeless woman to death in Berkeley last year. 

Jurors deliberated for parts of three days before delivering their verdict against Jarrell Maurice Johnson of San Leandro and Derrell Lamont Morgan of Berkeley for the attack on 49-year-old Maria King on Feb. 8, 2005. 

King died at a hospital 12 days after a confrontation with the men behind a second-hand clothing store near University Avenue and California Street. 

Johnson and Morgan are scheduled to be sentenced by Alameda County Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Horner on Nov. 17. They each face 15 years to life in state prison. 

In his closing argument last week, Alameda County Deputy District Attorney Ben Beltramo said Johnson and Morgan both should be convicted of first-degree murder because they knew that King was vulnerable and that by throwing her to the ground and kicking her multiple times they would kill her. 

Beltramo said King was “motionless, soundless and defenseless” after being knocked to the ground, but instead of helping King or just walking away, Morgan and Johnson kicked her in her vital organs at least three times each. 

“They had a choice and they chose death,” Beltramo said. 

He said the manager of an apartment building across the street who saw part of the incident from his window said the two men were kicking something as if they were kicking a soccer ball as hard as they could. 

Beltramo told jurors, “It wasn’t a soccer ball, it was a woman’s head.” 

The prosecutor said Morgan and Johnson kicked King with “an incredible amount of force” and she suffered at least seven facial fractures, a skull fracture, swelling and lacerations to both eyes and hemorrhaging and swelling to her brain. 

Johnson’s lawyer, Ray Plumhoff, admitted to jurors that Johnson participated in the attack but said he should be convicted of something less than murder. 

Morgan’s lawyer, Walter Pyle, said Morgan wasn’t involved in the brutal attack.