OAKLAND (CBS SF) — An Oakland man who was only 16 at the time was convicted Wednesday of first-degree murder for the shooting death of an off-duty paramedic in the Oakland hills in 2013.
After deliberating for only one day, jurors also convicted Christian Burton, who’s now 21, of the special circumstance of committing a murder during a carjacking for the fatal shooting of Santa Clara County paramedic Quinn Boyer, 34, shortly before noon on April 2, 2013.
However, jurors didn’t find that Burton was the person who shot Boyer, who lived in Dublin and had been married for less than a year.
Boyer crashed his car down a ravine in the 5200 block of Keller Avenue after he was shot and died two days later of a single gunshot wound to his head.
Boyer grew up in Oakland and had been in the city that day to take his father to a medical appointment.
Alameda County prosecutor Jimmie Wilson explained after the verdict Wednesday that jurors had reasonable doubt that Burton was the shooter because the only eyewitness in the case, a woman who’s now 80 years old, identified another teen, Nazhee Flowers, as the person she thought shot Boyer.
Wilson said jurors found Burton guilty of murder under the felony murder rule because they thought he was a major participant in the crime, even if they didn’t agree that he was the shooter.
Wilson stressed in his closing argument on Tuesday that Boyer’s final words to police before he died was that he was shot during a robbery, not a random incident.
Wilson also said in his argument that he thinks the eyewitness’s description of the shooting doesn’t match the evidence in the case and the shooting couldn’t have happened the way she said it did.
Wilson said the fatal shooting of Boyer occurred during a crime spree in which Burton and five other teens who played hooky from school on that spring day committed two carjackings and a robbery in addition to the shooting.
Wilson alleged that the teens wanted to carjack Boyer’s Honda Civic, as he had pulled his car off to the side of the road to use his cellphone.
Burton’s lawyer Ernie Castillo told jurors in his closing argument that they should find Burton not guilty because the eyewitness’s description of the shooter matched Flowers, not Burton.
Castillo admitted that Burton confessed to police that he was the shooter but said Burton did so only because he was a gullible 16-year-old kid who was worn down by police officers who used sophisticated tactics such as isolating him for hours in a room without windows and lying about the evidence in the case.
Boyer’s father, Roger Boyer, wife, Liz Boyer, and other family members and friends attended Burton’s trial and Boyer’s wife cried when the jury’s verdict was announced.
Liz Boyer declined to comment immediately after the verdict, saying she was confused by the jury’s decision not to conclude that Burton was the shooter.
But Wilson said he thinks Boyer’s family will be happy that Burton was convicted of murder with special circumstances and could face life in prison without the possibility of parole when Alameda County Superior Court Judge Kevin Murphy sentences him on Jan. 25.
However, Wilson said that because Burton was only 16 at the time of the shooting Murphy also has the option of sentencing Burton to life in prison with the chance of eventually being paroled.
This was Burton’s second trial for the death of Boyer because his first trial in 2015 ended in a mistrial with jurors deadlocked 7-5 in favor of finding him guilty.
Co-defendant David McNeal, who was 15 at the time of the shooting, was found guilty of first-degree murder in that same 2015 trial and was sentenced to 48 years to life in state prison for his role in the crime, which was providing the gun that was used to kill Boyer.
Three of the other teens who were involved in the crime pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in juvenile court for being accessories and are serving their sentences with the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation Division of Juvenile Justice.
Flowers, the person who Castillo alleges was the teen who shot Boyer, pleaded guilty in adult court to a carjacking charge and was sentenced to 15 years in state prison.
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