Mission murder trial goes to jury
by Seth Hemmelgarn
Testimony in the trial of a man accused of murdering a gay man in the Mission District in 2012 concluded this week as the jury began deliberations.
Roland Pouncy, 44, is charged with murder and robbery in the death of Richard Sprague, 47. Prosecutors say that hours after Sprague left the side of his domestic partner, David Nielsen, to buy cigarettes, Pouncy attacked and killed him. Sprague was found dead outside 125 Julian Street February 19, 2012.
Pouncy testified Wednesday, April 30 in San Francisco Superior Court before Judge Donald Sullivan.
Assistant District Attorney John Rowland described Pouncy struggling with Sprague and then strangling him, but Pouncy repeatedly said he had "no knowledge" of Sprague.
Deputy Public Defender Stephen Rosen later asked Pouncy specifically if he'd attacked Sprague, to which Pouncy replied, "No, I didn't. Not at all."
Pouncy, who's in custody and was homeless at the time of the murder, also said that he'd come upon Sprague's body lying on the sidewalk. He testified that he'd checked Sprague's carotid artery for a pulse before reaching into his pocket and taking his Wells Fargo debit card. Rowland was incredulous that Pouncy would have known to check Sprague's carotid artery.
He also questioned why Pouncy hadn't sought help after he hadn't felt signs of life.
"I didn't want to make the matter any worse on me," said Pouncy, who Rosen acknowledged had been doing drugs that night.
In Rowland's closing arguments Tuesday, May 6, he said several factors pointed to Pouncy's guilt, including DNA, evidence showing that Pouncy had possessed Sprague's debit card after the murder, and the testimony of a woman to whom Pouncy allegedly admitted the killing.
Rowland said DNA taken from Sprague's neck that matched Pouncy's DNA profile offered "overwhelming" evidence that he was the killer.
He suggested Pouncy had made up his testimony about checking for Sprague's pulse to explain why his DNA was on Sprague's body. Rowland said the fact that he hadn't sought help offered "the real glimpse into how cold of a character" Pouncy is.
Rowland also said that Pouncy had told Shekinah Sullivan, who was with Pouncy hours after the murder and who testified during the trial, "I killed a motherfucker up in the alley" the night Sprague was killed.
"What purpose would she have to lie?" Rowland asked.
Rowland also said that Sprague had made several ATM withdrawals just before he was killed, and the medical examiner's office found cocaine in his system.
Rosen said there's "no credible evidence" tying Sprague's murder "to the shoulders of Roland Pouncy."
Rosen said nobody knew where on Sprague's neck the sample had been taken from. He also said despite Sprague's numerous bloody wounds, prosecutors hadn't provided "one smidgen of forensic evidence" from the defendant's clothes showing that he'd been the man who'd spent several minutes fighting with and strangling the victim.
"That evidence doesn't exist," said Rosen.
He also noted that knowing how to check for a pulse is "common knowledge,"
He also disputed Sullivan's credibility, pointing to her criminal record, and suggesting she'd hoped to win favor with police over the years.