An Oakland man who is now 23 was convicted of second-degree murder today for the fatal shooting of a 16-year-old acquaintance in East Oakland in 2012. Jurors deliberated the equivalent of a full day before announcing their verdict against Kejuan Hill, who was only 17 at the time, for the shooting death of Charles Hill III of Hayward in the 2500 block of Church Street, near the Eastmont Town Center, shortly after 10 p.m. on March 23, 2012. Kejuan and Charles are not related.
Kejuan Hill, who faces a term of 40 years to life in state prison when he’s sentenced by Alameda County Superior Court Judge C. Don Clay on April 20, looked straight ahead and reacted calmly when the jury’s verdict was announced. Five bailiffs guarded the courtroom because there had been several outbursts by members of Charles Hill’s family during the trial, but his five family members who were present today reacted calmly and left the courtroom without speaking.
Kejuan Hill admitted on the witness stand last week that he fatally shot Charles Hill, but claimed he was just trying to play a prank on the other teen, didn’t know the gun he was carrying was loaded and it went off accidentally. Hill’s attorney Christina Moore told jurors in her closing argument on Wednesday that they should only convict him of involuntary manslaughter, saying that Hill “played what turned out to be an incredibly poor joke.”
But Alameda County prosecutor Patrick Moriarty said Hill should be convicted of either first-degree or second-degree murder, saying, “This was not an accident” and alleging Hill “calmly executed a 16-year-old boy.” Kejuan Hill testified that he was at a party that night but left with a group of about 11 friends, which didn’t include Charles Hill, after they heard that there would be a shooting at the party. Kejuan Hill said two of his friends got into an argument because one of the friends was armed with what appeared to be a non-functioning gun and the other friend said that was stupid because it would leave them defenseless if there was a shooting.
Hill said one of the friends gave the supposedly non-functioning gun to him to carry and he believed it was incapable of firing because it felt light as if it didn’t have any bullets in it. Hill said that when he and his friends walked away from the party, they happened to run into Charles Hill, who he said was sitting on a curb and rolling a joint of marijuana. Kejuan Hill said he pulled the gun on Charles Hill as a prank but then it suddenly discharged and killed his friend. Moore said Hill didn’t go to the police after the shooting because he grew up in East Oakland and people there distrust the police. At the urging of his mother, he fled to Kansas City, Missouri, where he got a job at a Denny’s restaurant using his brother’s name.
Acting on a tip, a U.S. Marshals Service-Kansas City police task force arrested Hill at the Denny’s on Oct. 26, 2015, three-and-a-half years after the fatal shooting. Moriarty told jurors that Hill’s testimony “was completely untruthful” and his statement that he and Charles Hill were friends was incorrect because Charles’ friends told authorities that the two teens weren’t very close and one of them said Kejuan never liked Charles. The prosecutor said that if Kejuan really was close to Charles, “he would have comforted his friend in the last moments of his life” instead of running away, changing his clothes and moving across the country.
Kejuan Hill testified that several of his friends had bullied Charles Hill because the other teen was gay, but said he had never done so and the prosecution never alleged there was an anti-gay motive for the shooting.
Kejuan Hill’s cousins, Darryl Hill and Deandre Hill, were sentenced by Judge Clay in February 2009 to life in state prison without the possibility of parole for murdering a man while he was buying a burrito at a taco truck near the Oakland Coliseum in 2008.
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