Preliminary examination for Kamahl Middleton murder sends 3 defendants to trial as charged

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OAKLAND — At a preliminary examination for the December murder of Kamahl Middleton in West Berkeley, a judge decided Monday that the three defendants in the case would proceed to trial as charged despite an attempt to drop the charges against one defendant.

On Dec. 29, 18-year-old Khalil Phanor, 20-year-old Carl Young and 19-year-old Gregory Foote allegedly murdered and robbed Middleton and injured his fiancee, Rebekah Cleberg, in a parking lot during an alleged marijuana trade. The three defendants were charged with murder, second-degree robbery and assault with a firearm.

The examination, held in front of Alameda County Superior Court Judge Thomas Reardon, called on testimony from Berkeley Police Department detective Jesse Grant, who testified that in April he had examined the photographs found on Foote’s phone. Grant said he recognized the pictures of Young’s California ID and medical marijuana cards — which Middleton and Cleberg had asked for as verification prior to the alleged deal — among the photos.

Young’s lawyer, David Cohen, asked for charges against Young to be dropped, arguing that Young had provided a false confession and that both Cleberg’s testimony and the case’s evidence were inconsistent.

Cohen said Young was kept in the police interrogation room for seven hours straight and was interrogated during the last two hours of his stay. He alleged that investigators falsely promised leniency and provided Young with false information in order to procure a confession. Cohen added that DNA evidence excluded Young from the items found in the car, which were genetically linked to Phanor, and that cellphone records placed Young in San Leandro around the time of the shooting.

Reardon said the discrepancies may prove significant at trial but decided there was probable cause for the defendants to go to trial as charged.

A trial date was not set during the examination.

Contact Madeleine Pauker at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @powkur.