OAKLAND — Asmerom Gebreselassie took the witness stand in his own defense Tuesday, giving a jury a long-winded explanation about his upbringing, the beliefs instilled in him as an Eritrean child growing up in war-torn Ethiopia and why be believed his in-laws were responsible for the death of his brother.
Gebreselassie, charged along with his brother Tewodros of a triple murder in the killing of three in-laws, began to tell his version of the events that led to the slayings and to lay a foundation to explain why the Thanksgiving Day 2006 shooting in Oakland was self-defense and not murder.
Both brothers have pleaded not guilty and claim the killings were a result of self-defense sparked by the in-laws threatening to kill the pair because the Gebreselassies were going to reveal the “truth” about his 42-year-old brother Abraham’s death and out two brother-in-laws who were gay.
Gebreselassie’s testimony Tuesday was the first time he spoke to the jury since he was banished from the courtroom for a day last month after he made several outbursts at Alameda County Superior Court Judge Vern Nakahara when he was representing himself. In addition to the one-day ban from the courtroom, the outbursts forced Nakahara to appoint a lawyer to represent the 47-year-old.
Gebreselassie began his testimony Tuesday by not answering a question posed but instead telling jury members that they have yet to hear the truth about what occurred on the day in question.
“People have been misled because the truth has been hidden from them. I would like them to know the truth entirely,” Gebreselassie said when asked why he requested an interpreter. “This case is about our society, about things that are acceptable and not acceptable, things that are disgusting, sodomy, homosexuality.”
Gebreselassie’s refusal to answer questions directly continued throughout the day Tuesday and he was ordered several times by Nakahara to simply answer the questions.