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Alameda County DA ripped after move to reduce potential sentence for deputy accused of double killing


Alameda County District Attorney Pamela Price came under fire Wednesday for her office’s last-second bid to drop a key sentencing enhancement against a former sheriff’s deputy accused of gunning down a Dublin couple inside their home 18 months ago.

Alameda County sheriff's deputy Devin Williams Jr., 24, of Stockton, is the suspect in the killing of a married couple inside a Dublin home. (Alameda County Sheriff's Office)
Alameda County sheriff’s deputy Devin Williams Jr., 24, of Stockton, is the suspect in the killing of a married couple inside a Dublin home. (Alameda County Sheriff’s Office) 

The request by Price’s office to drop all of the sentencing enhancements against the former deputy, Devin Williams, was quickly denied by an Alameda County judge. He cited the late nature of the request — which came just moments before the start of a key evidentiary hearing — in striking it down.

The judge’s decision brought relief to the family of Maria and Benison Tran, who were gunned down in their home on September 2022. Still, the relatives criticized Price for even attempting such a maneuver, adding that they expected the district attorney to try again once the hearing ended.

Roughly two dozen family and friends of the couple appeared in court Wednesday, many wearing shirts emblazoned with Maria Tran’s face and the words, “Forever in our hearts.” Outside the courthouse, several of them protested the potential move with signs that read “PAMELA PRICE SOFT ON MURDERERS” and “Pamela Price Lets Murderers Go Free, Recall Her NOW!”

The move was a “sweetheart deal” by a district attorney who “is not just soft on crime; she is weak when it comes to protecting our community,” said one of Maria Tran’s sisters, Jennie Wong, in a statement she prepared ahead of the hearing.

In particular, Wong criticized Price’s attempt to do away with a special circumstances enhancement, which could leave Williams imprisoned without the possibility of parole if convicted.

She lamented how the couple were “executed” in front of their child and Maria Tran’s mother, leaving the child “to live with the memory of his two parents lying dead in his home, a cruel burden for the rest of his life.”

“The psychological trauma is too great to put into words,” the statement said.

In a press release, Price stressed that Williams will face 50 years to life in prison, and called the killings “an unthinkable tragedy.”

“There is nothing I can say that will relieve the pain and anger that they’re feeling with the loss of their loved ones,” Price said in the statement, adding that Williams could even spend “potentially a lifetime in prison.”

The request amounted to “a travesty of justice” and an “insult” to the couple’s relatives, family attorney Chris Dolan said in a statement.

The request was made by Edward “Ted” McGarvey, a deputy district attorney who said he was acting “per the instructions I received from our administration.” He did not elaborate.

It came less than two weeks after Williams’ attorneys signaled they might challenge the case based on the state’s Racial Justice Act.

The attorneys filed a motion March 15 asking for information that could shed light on whether Black defendants disproportiately faced the enhancement.

They referenced data provided to them from the district attorney’s office that found from 2017 through 2022, 74 of the 116 people charged with the special circumstances enhancement were Black, equalling nearly 64% of defendants. That’s despite Black residents comprising only 11% of Alameda County’s population.

The data suggested a “dramatic racial disparity” in charging decisions, the motion said.

All of those cases came squarely during the tenure of former District Attorney Nancy O’Malley’s administration. The motion said little about charging practices since Price took office.

At the hearing Wednesday, Maria Tran’s brother recalled the killings in gripping detail — describing finding Williams in the couple’s house late in early September 2022 after going to bed and then watching the double killing play out before his eyes.

The brother, Dalton Tran, recalled waking that night to the sound of Benison Tran’s voice urging him to call 911. When Dalton Tran looked out of his bedroom, he found Williams holding a handgun outside of the couple’s bedroom, while Benison Tran rushed downstairs.

Williams appeared to be “visibly shaking,” and he told Maria “you did this to me,” Dalton Tran testified. The deputy also allegedly voiced concern about Benison talking to the authorities.

When Benison came upstairs while on the phone with 911, Williams said “he’s talking to the cops,” and fired a round at Benison Tran, the brother testified. Benison Tran crumpled to the base of the stairs as Dalton and Maria Tran followed after.

There, Williams fired into the heads of Benison and Maria Tran, killing them, Dalton said.

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