A jury began deliberations today in the case of a San Francisco teen charged with murdering another teen at a downtown shopping center in 2007 after a seemingly innocuous argument outside a video arcade.
Chistopher Canon was 15 years old when he shot 18-year-old Michael Price Jr., of Oakland, at the Metreon at Fourth and Mission streets on Nov. 11, 2007. He was arrested near the scene.
Canon was charged as an adult with murder and a firearm use allegation, which would bring a life sentence in prison if he were convicted.
In their closing arguments today, Assistant District Attorney Kin Tong asked the jury to convict Canon, now 18, of first-degree murder, while defense attorney David Simerly told the jury the shooting was self-defense and asked for a complete acquittal.
According to Tong, Price and his friends and family had been playing games at the arcade on the second floor, and after going down the escalator to the first floor, Canon confronted him, complaining that Price had been “walking hella slow.”
Tong said words were exchanged, and Canon repeatedly threatened Price by motioning to a gun he had hidden on him and saying “I’ll pop you.”
Price and his cousin then walked away, but Canon again confronted them near the door of the mall, where Price offered to fistfight. Canon produced the gun and shot Price four times, according to Tong.
Price collapsed and was pronounced dead a short time later.
Canon fled the scene and, when spotted by police, threw away the gun and ran through nearby shops until he was arrested leaving Bloomingdales, Tong said.
After initially denying responsibility for the shooting to a homicide inspector, Canon claimed he shot Price because, “He was annoying me,” Tong said.
Canon further claimed Price had threatened to kill him, but only after the inspector inquired whether there had been any threat, Tong said.
Tong said evidence presented at trial from surveillance video and witnesses showed Canon was the aggressor in both encounters inside the mall, and that the shooting was willful, deliberate and premeditated.
“The defendant made a choice,” Tong said. “He thought about life, and he thought about death. And he chose death.”
Simerly, however, argued the prosecution had not proven its case beyond a reasonable doubt.
“I don’t think that on this evidence, you’re ever going to get to that point of serenity” with a guilty verdict, Simerly told jurors.
Instead, Simerly said the surveillance video showed his client was “backing away” from Price in both encounters, and that Price had been the aggressor.
“The body language is saying, ‘I am going to kick your ass,'” Simerly said.
Simerly maintained that Canon’s threat to “pop” Price was actually a warning to Price to try to back him off, and that Canon defended himself in a “wild panic.”
Price was armed with a knife that was later found on the ground at the scene of the shooting, but Tong said there was no evidence he had produced it prior to being shot.
But even if a knife had not been drawn, “Punches can kill,” Simerly said.
Another point of contention between the attorneys revolved around Canon’s age at the time and whether he should be held to the same level of responsibility as an adult.
Though a doctor testified at the trial that the 15-year-old brain is not fully developed and could lead to impulse control problems, Tong told the jury today, “At age 15, you are able to make choices.”
Simerly differed, saying, “They cannot process information the same way.”
Simerly even drew a comparison to the Bush administration’s decision to go to war with Iraq in 2003 over the mistaken belief that country possessed weapons of mass destruction.
“But no, they want the 15-year-old to be perfect” in his decision-making, Simerly told the jury. “I see this as a complete self-defense case.”
Tong later responded, “We’re not expecting him to be perfect. He is a normal 15-year-old who can make decisions.”
On Nov. 11, 2007, Canon’s decision was “poor,” Tong said. He said there was no evidence that Canon was defending himself from imminent danger that required the use of deadly force.
“It was supposed to be a fist fight,” Tong said. “He was not afraid for his life.”
Ari Burack, Bay City News