Marlon Brando's son was ordered Tuesday to stand trial for first-degree murder in the shooting of his half sister's lover after a prosecutor quoted Christian Brando as saying of the victim: "Death is too good for the guy."
Bail for Brando, who has been jailed since his arrest on the night of the slaying, was set at $10 million.
Los Angeles Municipal Judge Larry Fidler, who listened to two days of testimony about the slaying of Dag Drollet, said his only decision was whether a suspicion remained that Brando committed murder, rather than manslaughter, the charge on which his lawyer sought to have him tried.
"It would appear to me from the evidence presented that the district attorney has certainly met the burden of proof," the judge said. "There has been a killing and the defendant pulled the trigger."
Fidler ordered Brando, a 32-year-old welder, to appear Aug. 7 for arraignment in Superior Court on one count of murder and one count of possession of an illegal weapon, an assault rifle. That weapon was not used in the killing.
Defense lawyers had asserted that the May 16 shooting in Marlon Brando's home in the Santa Monica Mountains was a tragic accident that arose from a struggle for a gun or, at worst, the result of Christian Brando's drunken rage upon learning that his pregnant sister had been physically abused by Drollet.
But Deputy Dist. Atty. Steven Barshop argued: "This is not a struggle; this is not a fight. This is nothing but murder."
Barshop read to the judge a lengthy statement made by the defendant to the first police officer who arrived at the Brando estate.
"I shot him, man, but not on purpose," Brando said. "It was an accident. The gun was under the couch. I kept it there."
At another point, he said: "I did it because he hurt my sister. . . . He was laying on the couch. He was fighting with my sister. I said, 'You leave my sister alone. . . . ' "
"We were both in a rage. The (expletive) gun went off."
Later, Brando conceded to the officer that he did not like Drollet and declared: "Man, death is too good for the guy."
Marlon Brando, who sat stone-faced in the front row throughout the hearing next to his younger son, Miko, left without comment through a rear entrance, avoiding reporters and photographers.
Drollet's father, sitting nearby, also declined comment.
Christian Brando told arresting officers that Drollet, 26, was shot accidentally as the two men wrestled over a pistol in the den.
His attorney, Robert Shapiro, told Fidler Tuesday, "This case, at most, is a manslaughter." The lawyer said his client reacted the way any brother would after his sister, Cheyenne, 20, who was nearly nine months pregnant, told him at dinner on the night of the shooting that Drollet had beat her.
"He wanted to go to this person and say, 'Hey, man, lay off my sister,' " Shapiro said, and during the confrontation, "the gun was discharged."
Evidence that Brando was legally intoxicated hours after his arrest also indicates he was too drunk to form the "specific intent" to kill needed to prove murder, the defense attorney argued.
Shapiro said Tuesday that Marlon Brando left the room where the shooting occurred undisturbed for two months, delaying plans to briefly turn it into a shrine to Drollet. "He wanted to light a candle . . . then clean up the blood and the residue and go on with his life," the lawyer said.
Prosecutors may have a hard time winning a first-degree murder conviction.
About a month after the shooting, Cheyenne Brando left for Tahiti, where both she and Drollet were born, and has been medically and physically unable to return to testify, leaving prosecutors with only her initial statements.
And Fidler ruled Tuesday that those statements are inadmissible. The judge agreed with the defense that substituting a statement for Cheyenne's in-person testimony would deprive the defense of the constitutional right to cross-examine and confront an accuser.
Prosecutors suffered another setback Monday when Fidler ruled that Christian Brando's tape-recorded interview with Los Angeles police detectives after his arrest cannot be used against him. Fidler agreed with defense attorneys that a detective erred in reading Brando's Miranda rights by not fully informing him of his constitutional right to an attorney.