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Michigan boy, 13, convicted of 1997 murder

Nathaniel looks back to family members as someone in the courtroom gasps as the verdict is read  

November 16, 1999
Web posted at: 3:32 p.m. EST (2032 GMT)

PONTIAC, Michigan (CNN) -- Nathaniel Abraham, one of the nation's youngest murder defendants, was found guilty Tuesday of second-degree murder for shooting a teen-ager to death in 1997, when he was 11 years old.

A Michigan jury acquitted the 13-year-old on a charge of first-degree murder and two lesser charges in the shooting death of the 18-year-old.

With the second-degree murder conviction, the boy faces a maximum of life in prison with the possibility of parole. A first-degree murder charge could have meant life in prison without parole.

His case gained widespread attention as he became the first youth to be charged with first-degree murder and tried as an adult under a January 1997 Michigan law that allows adult prosecutions of children of any age in certain serious felony cases.

VideoCNN's Ed Garsten reports on the conviction
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Nathaniel Abraham case background

Special report: Michigan Juvenile Law

Crime and punishment


The jury deliberated over four days after listening to eight days of testimony.

Prosecutors had requested a so-called "blended sentence" in which Nathaniel would be held in a juvenile facility until he is 21. Prosecutors would then review his case to decide if he should be freed or sent to prison.

Oakland County Assistant Prosecutor Lisa Halushka said the verdict was a "victory for Nathaniel" because "he can now get the rehabilitation he says he needs."

She said it was also "justice for the family of Ronnie Greene," the victim of the shooting.

Defense: It was an accident

Nathaniel was charged with fatally shooting Ronnie Greene Jr. in the head while Greene stood at least 200 feet away outside a convenience store in Pontiac, a Detroit suburb.

Nathaniel admitted to police he fired the .22-caliber rifle but said he was aiming at trees. Defense lawyers, who called the shooting an accident, say the bullet that killed Greene ricocheted.

During the trial, Halushka urged jurors not to be swayed by the youngster's age. Nathaniel had practiced firing the rifle, bragged about wanting to shoot someone and had the capacity to form an intent to kill, she said.

Defense attorney Geoffrey Fieger chastised authorities for charging Nathaniel with murder as an adult, keeping the youth locked up for two years and for shackling his ankles.

Expert witnesses called by Fieger said Nathaniel had the mental capacity of a 6-year-old at the time of the killing and could not have formed the intent to kill necessary for a first-degree murder conviction.

The defense also said the boy had no motive for killing Greene because he didn't know him.

Detroit Bureau Chief Ed Garsten contributed to this report.

No verdict yet for young murder defendant
November 15, 1999
Jurors to resume deliberating fate of 13-year-old murder defendant Monday
November 12, 1999
Prosecutor: Boy, 11, bragged he'd kill, then did
October 29, 1999
Should a 13-Year-Old Stand Trial for Murder?
October 20, 1999

Court TV Online - T R I A L S - Michigan v. Abraham
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