A 15-year-old boy in Syracuse, Noo Yawk, was convicted of attempted robbery, illegal weapon possession and the second-degree murder of a cannabis dealer on Friday April 9 2021. There was security video of the episode and the teen made a confession but claimed he had no choice. The prosecutor, Melinda McGunnigle, declared in closing: “The case really is as simple as it seems.” The jury agreed, taking only two hours to come to a decision.

Downtown Syracuse. Photo: Jason

Downtown Syracuse. Photo: Jason

Guilty!

Benjamin Kemp was convicted of all charges in the death of cannabis dealer 18-year-old Ezequiel Ruiz. This occurred when Kemp was supposed to purchase $40 of cannabis in Ruiz’s car, parked before a block of flats on South Salina Street. He will receive a life sentence but be eligible for parole somewhere between seven-and-a-half and 15 years down the line. The judge will determine the exact point.

”They forced me to do it.”

Kemp set up the meeting on January 21 2020 but tried to rob the cannabis dealer. He entered Ruiz’s car, produced a loaded handgun, pointed it at the victim’s head and announced, “Do you know who I am? Give me everything.” In a conversation with his father at the police station which was recorded, he protested that he fired “only” two bullets into the back of Ruiz’s head when the victim resisted: “I was only supposed to rob the dude. They forced me to do it.” This is an important point because the minimum sentence for intentional murder is seven-and-a-half years compared to five years otherwise. Being only 15 at the time of the crime means Kemp faces a lower minimum sentence: it would have been 15 years if he’d been an adult. But McGunnigle portrayed this as a confession: “He admitted he was the one who did it.”

Kemp’s lawyer lawyer suggested there was no evidence proving he intended to kill Ruiz. In response to this, McGunnigle declared, “You should be offended by that.” Certainly, no physical struggle occurred, although McGunnigle suggested Ruiz reached for Kemp’s gun. The exchange took only 14 seconds. After being shot, Ruiz’s foot pressed on the accelerator pedal, causing his car to crash into two others parked in the same area. Kemp’s arrest took place in the space of one week.

The mobile phone used to set up the meeting with a text message belonged to Kemp and there was video of the crime that the prosecutor claimed clearly depicted Kemp. He will remain in juvenile detention until he’s old enough for an adult prison. Ruiz was once a distinguished football player at Syracuse’s Institute of Technology high school.

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