A 19-year-old accused of killing a Lanphier High School student in 2021 after a drug deal went awry was found guilty of second-degree murder Wednesday in Sangamon County Circuit Court.
Nazsier T. Robinson was accused of killing Malachi Williams, 17, on Feb. 18, 2021 in the 2200 block of East Enterprise Street in Grandview. Robinson shot through the passenger side and rear of a Nissan Sentra after he attempted to sell Williams and Kentavis Thomas, also 17 years old, 13 grams of marijuana.
He had been charged with three counts of first-degree murder, one count of attempted first-degree murder, two counts of aggravated battery with a firearm, and one count of unlawful possession of a firearm. The jury also found him guilty of the aggravated battery and firearm charges after deliberating over two hours.
Williams died in the incident and Thomas was severely injured.
Both were taken to HSHS St. John's Hospital following the incident, with Williams dying two days later and Thomas requiring a long recovery period.
The jury leaned towards a second-degree charge rather than the first-degree charges, largely agreeing with defense attorney Jeff Page's interpretation of what happened. He said during closing arguments earlier Wednesday that Robinson made four mistakes – selling marijuana, purchasing a gun, taking the gun outside his home during a drug deal, and firing the gun – during the incident, but that whatever happened fell short of first-degree murder charges.
He said that Robinson's mindset was that of an "immature" 16-year-old and that he had been put in a situation that would be difficult for anyone to handle. Page said that Robinson was a young man who was working to support his family and that getting into the marijuana business came due to his family struggling to make ends meet.
While he said that they mourned the loss of life, Williams and Thomas tricked Robinson into the ill-fated deal by using a Snapchat of an ex-girlfriend to make him think he was going to be selling to a woman. He also said Williams and Thomas didn't have any intention of paying Robinson for the 13 grams of marijuana.
Regarding the shooting, Page said that Robinson thought someone was attempting to leave the car and that Thomas was reaching for something that could have been a gun, consistent with an air pistol that was found on that side of the car following the shooting. That gun, Page said, had all of the characteristics of a real gun, even if it wasn't real.
Page said that while there were all of the elements of first-degree murder, the mitigating factors present made it more along the lines of a second-degree case, something that would put responsibility on Robinson for his alleged actions, but not go as far as it would with the maximum punishment.
However, prosecutors with the Sangamon County State's Attorney's Office said during closing arguments that the testimony heard and evidence provided during the two-day trial proved that Robinson's actions led to Williams' death and the severe internal injuries that Thomas had to overcome as a result of the incident.
Assistant State's Attorney Kendra Hansel said that Robinson's actions changed the lives of Williams and Thomas' families, all because of what she referred to as "wounded pride," after the two teenagers obtained the marijuana without paying for it.
She said that Robinson's life wasn't in danger and that his actions were unjustified, as Thomas had testified Tuesday that they had what they needed, didn't need to do anything else, and were merely driving away.
Emotions continued to flow after the verdict with Robinson's mother, Kimeka Robinson, lamenting that her son got caught up with the wrong people leading up to the incident. She added that being convicted on second-degree murder charges allows her son to have a second chance at life at some point in the future.
"It's an unfortunate situation," Kimeka Robinson said. "My son was 16 at the time, being out on the streets around negative people and bad influences. Everything (that was said) in the trial, it was just a misfortunate situation and in the end, God was there and he showed up like he was supposed to. All I have to say is, God is good."
Sangamon County State's Attorney John Milhiser said that something needed to be done to prevent juveniles from committing crimes similar to Robinson's.
"All too often, we see in our community and around the country juveniles committing violent crimes," Milhiser said. "We have to do something to stop these shootings. We have seen across the country the offenders getting younger, victims oftentimes getting younger and we really have to do something to stop this criminal behavior."
Robinson will be sentenced Feb. 7 at 9:30 a.m. He is facing up to 75 years in prison.
This article originally appeared on State Journal-Register: Nazsier Robinson found guilty of second-degree murder in 2021 shooting