Jurors clear York City pot dealer of murder, but convict him of manslaughter
A York City marijuana dealer who fatally shot 17-year-old Ruban Dejesus as the teen was robbing him has been cleared of murder charges.
Instead, York County jurors on Thursday, Jan. 23, took about 2½ hours to convict Marquise Anton Stanley of the first-degree misdemeanor of involuntary manslaughter and the third-degree felony of carrying a firearm without a license.
They acquitted him of the felonies of first- and third-degree murder and voluntary manslaughter. He was never charged with selling marijuana, but he acknowledged on the witness stand during trial that he was selling pot the night of the shooting.
Defense attorney Rick Robinson told jurors during his closing argument that Stanley was acting in self-defense and that he was struggling with Marquis Butts and Dejesus when he fired wildly.
"He was scared for his life. He thought he was going to get shot," Robinson said. "That is perfectly reasonable, to feel that way."
First deputy district attorney Seth Bortner had argued to jurors that Stanley shot Dejesus in the back out of rage that he had been robbed.
Stanley, 34, is scheduled to be sentenced on March 23 by presiding Common Pleas Judge Maria Musti Cook.
How much time? Involuntary manslaughter has a maximum possible sentence of 2½ to five years in state prison and the firearms violation carries a maximum sentence of 3½ to seven years, according to Robinson.
Robinson said his client was relieved by the verdict. Had Stanley been convicted of first-degree murder, he would have received an automatic life sentence without parole.
"I think the jury carefully considered everything and did their job," the attorney said.
Jurors learned that Dejesus and Butts were directed by Kaishan Hudson, 31, to rob Stanley in the 600 block of Linden Avenue after Hudson set up a meeting with Stanley to sell him $90 worth of marijuana, according to testimony.
Hudson remained in the car and sent Dejesus — his underage cousin — and Butts to do his dirty work, telling them that Stanley was "soft" and wouldn't retaliate, Robinson argued to jurors. It happened about 11:30 p.m. Oct. 21, 2018.
Never charged: Hudson has not been charged with robbery or homicide. Bortner said the investigation isn't closed, but he wouldn't say whether Hudson — who testified at trial that he had nothing to do with the robbery — will be charged.
Butts, 22, of York, was originally charged with murder as well, since he and Dejesus were working in concert to commit felony robbery. State law says that people who commit felonies are responsible for what happens during those crimes, whether the outcome was planned or not.
Prosecutors withdrew murder charges, although Butts remains charged with robbery and conspiracy to commit that offense.
He testified for the prosecution at Stanley's trial, telling jurors that he and Dejesus approached Stanley, and that Butts grabbed the bag of weed from Stanley's hand as Dejesus kept his hand in his pocket, gesturing as if he had a gun.
Butts said that after grabbing the pot, he and Dejesus turned to run, which was when he heard a gunshot and saw Dejesus fall to the ground. Butts said he kept running and never went back to help the teen. Hudson also never tried to help his cousin, testimony revealed.
Eyewitness account: But jurors also heard from an eyewitness who testified that he witnessed a tussle among three men, heard a muffled gunshot, then saw two men running away.
Those two men were Stanley and Butts, Robinson said, adding that the shot that struck Dejesus in the back wasn't a straight back-to-front shot; it was more angled, as if Dejesus had turned "ever so slightly" immediately beforehand.
Stanley has always expressed remorse for killing Dejesus, according to his attorney, despite the fact that he fled the state after the homicide.
"Certain segments of society don't trust police officers," Robinson told jurors during his closing argument, which he insinuated was why Stanley fled. "That doesn't mean he wasn't justified in what he did that night."
At trial, Butts contradicted his previous police statements and preliminary hearing testimony several times.
For instance, he told jurors at trial that Dejesus didn't have a gun and was only pretending to be armed. But in 2018, he told police he didn't know whether Dejesus was carrying a gun or not, although it appeared that he was.
Memory 'wasn't right': He explained that at trial by claiming, "My memory wasn't right. I was still traumatized by the situation. Now it all came back."
Butts also told jurors that he fled the scene, leaving Dejesus to die alone on the ground, and didn't call 911 because "my phone was dead."
At Stanley's preliminary hearing in February, Butts testified, "I wasn't calling no police."
He was combative with Robinson as the defense attorney tried to cross-examine him, at one point refusing to review a transcript of his prior statements. The judge had to order him to do so.
On the stand, Butts said, "I just want justice for Ruban," but acknowledged he abandoned Dejesus, then eventually made his way to a local bar. He justified that by saying he saw Dejesus' cousin there and told her about the shooting.
Bortner told jurors that just because Butts lied about some things "doesn't mean he lies about everything."
— Reach senior crime reporter Liz Evans Scolforo at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.