Sacramento jurors Tuesday found Lynnsey Evakarla Braun guilty of second-degree murder in the fatal shooting of a man aboard a downtown light-rail car in January 2014.
Now they must decide whether Braun, 34, was sane when she shot and killed 51-year-old Eric McCaster of Sacramento in what was the first homicide aboard a Regional Transit train in the service’s history. Braun had pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity in the 2014 shooting.
The Tuesday verdict before Sacramento Superior Court Judge Allen Sumner concluded the first part of the two-phase trial. The sanity phase was to begin Tuesday afternoon with opening statements by deputy Sacramento County Public Defender Alice Michel and prosecuting Sacramento County Deputy District Attorney Thomas Asker.
Deliberation could begin as early as Wednesday afternoon, Sumner said from the bench.
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Prosecutors say Braun was aboard the Sunrise-bound light rail at downtown Sacramento’s Archives Plaza station at 11th and O streets on Jan. 23, 2014, when McCaster boarded the car just before 10 p.m. and sat across the aisle from Braun. Within minutes, McCaster was shot dead.
Prosecutors said an inebriated McCaster had tried to chat with Braun and at one point dropped a stainless steel bottle shaped like a pistol encased in a plastic holster on the floor. McCaster continued to talk to Braun, who ignored him until she pulled out a .357-caliber revolver from a small suitcase she carried and fired six shots at McCaster at close range, say prosecutors.
McCaster was shot through the neck and chest, but managed to get off of the train before collapsing dead outside the car.
Braun was quickly arrested without incident by Sacramento police, but claimed self-defense, telling officers, “He was chipping at me and displayed a gun at me so I defended myself,” according to court documents.
The 2014 shooting and a second high-profile incident within two months aboard another downtown train heightened concerns about light-rail safety. In the second killing, Sacramento police fatally shot a 50-year-old man who claimed to be armed with a knife. That prompted Regional Transit to bolster security on its trains on nights and weekends.