Richmond native Joseph ‘Fatter’ Blacknell loses appeal in 2009 murder case
Feb. 09, 2020
Life sentence upheld in 2009 murder, crime spree
SAN FRANCISCO — A Richmond man who became one of the city’s most notorious residents has lost appeals of his conviction and life sentence, court records show.
In a 12-page decision issued in late January, a California Appeals Court rejected motions by Joseph “Fatter” Blacknell , 29, challenging his sentence of life without parole plus 155 years, plus another 49 years. The court ruled the sentence was not cruel and unusual punishment, and that Blacknell’s young age — he was convicted of a murder that occurred when he was 18 — didn’t justify leniency.
The court did correct a minor miscalculation, taking two years off the 49-year term that was tacked onto the other sentences . The January decision comes after an appellate court decision last year, that upheld Blacknell’s numerous convictions related to the March 2009 murder of Marcus Russell, and a crime spree — including attempted murders — six months later, in September.
At the time of Blacknell’s 2012 trial, authorities said Blacknell was believed to be one of Richmond’s most prolific shooters , and suspected in several other murders. In an 2012 interview with Richmond Confidential reporter Robert Rogers , Blacknell denied being behind Russell’s murder, and said that gun violence was always a part of his life.
“Ever since I can remember, people was dying,” Blacknell told Rogers. “My uncle got killed when I was like six or seven. I remember some of my dad’s friends, like I don’t even know they names, but something would go down and they would be dead. Death was always just a part of life.”
Blacknell was known as an Easter Hill gang member, and Russell — a rising rapper — was associated with a group called “Backstreets,” according to court records. Prosecutors used MySpace posts to argue that Blacknell intended to avenge his close friend Sean Melson, who was allegedly killed by a gang allied with Backstreets.
Russell was shot on Interstate 580, as he drove through Richmond on his way back from a rap-related photo shoot. Witnesses said a van pulled up, and a shooter fired several times. Russell saw a relative notice the van, and turned to see what she was looking at, in the moments before the shooting.
Blacknell was also found guilty of four attempted murder counts, including shooting at a 10-year-old niece of one of his intended targets. One of the attempted murder victims was Devonte “Archy” Bernstine, who would go onto be indicted on conspiracy to commit murder charges years later, but pled out to 18 years in state prison, according to court records .
Blacknell is serving his sentence at Salinas Valley State Prison, in Soledad, according to public records.
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