- Associated Press - Tuesday, September 23, 2014

WINNER, S.D. (AP) - Jurors on Tuesday convicted a Pierre teenager of killing one classmate and threatening another after an argument about a paintball incident, rejecting the defense’s argument that the 16-year-old boy’s shooting death was an accident.

The jury in Winner deliberated more than six hours before finding Braiden McCahren, 18, guilty of second-degree murder for the December 2012 killing of 16-year-old Dalton Williams. McCahren, who was 16 at the time but was tried as an adult, also was convicted of aggravated assault for pointing a shotgun at another classmate, identified as T.Y., and pulling the trigger.

The jury found of McCahren not guilty on a charge of attempted murder in the case of T.Y.

Defense attorney Michael Butler declined to comment immediately after the verdict. Family members of McCahren also declined to comment.

Special Prosecuting Attorney Michael Moore said he was pleased with the results.

“They held the defendant accountable for what he did to Dalton, and they held the defendant accountable for what he did to (T.Y.),” he said.

The mandatory sentence for second-degree murder is life in prison, but because he was a juvenile at the time, McCahren could receive a lesser sentence and could be eligible for parole, Moore said.

T.Y., identified only by his initials because he also was a juvenile at the time of the shooting, told police shortly after Williams’ death that the boys had picked up Williams at his house after school before going back to McCahren’s. Once there, the teenager said he and McCahren got into an argument about a paintball incident in McCahren’s vehicle and began to “wrestle around jokingly.” It was then that McCahren went to the front door of the house, T.Y. said, and got the shotgun.

When pressed by defense attorney Clint Sargent during the trial about his initial account to police that the shooting was an accident, T.Y. said he didn’t “see it that way anymore.”

T.Y. testified that he was scared when McCahren loaded the gun and pointed it at him twice. He said he tried to leave McCahren’s house on two occasions. The third time he attempted to leave, T.Y. said, Williams was between him and McCahren, the gun discharged and struck Williams.

Moore said in his closing arguments that testimony from T.Y. was the evidence the jury needed to convict McCahren.

But Butler told jurors the killing was a tragic accident, saying that nobody, including McCahren, knew the shotgun was loaded.

Butler told jurors a last-minute request by Moore for the option of lesser charges was evidence the state failed to prove McCahren was guilty of first-degree murder. Moore disagreed, saying that jurors must be given options.

A second-degree murder conviction requires that the jury find the defendant acted without regard for human life. Unlike a first-degree murder conviction, it does not require prosecutors to prove premeditation.

After the verdict was announced, family and friends of Dalton Williams cried out and sobbed. They declined to comment as they were leaving the courthouse.

Williams’ death on Dec. 18, 2012, drew heavy news coverage in Pierre and the trial was moved to Winner to improve the chances of an impartial jury.

The trial was delayed nearly half a dozen times as attorneys from both sides contested what evidence can be used, who can testify and whether McCahren should be tried as an adult.

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