By Owen Pence and Alejandro Serrano
Two men pleaded guilty in court yesterday to killing Nicholas Martinez in 2012.
The change of plea for 22-year-old Jaquan Hill and 25-year-old Shakeem Johnson, came Wednesday after opening statements had already begun in their trial. Jury selection for the trial took more than a week to complete.
Martinez, 22, of Roxbury, was killed on Oct. 17 while he was in his car at a stoplight on Southampton Street in the South End. Raymond Concepcion, who was 15 at the time of the murder, allegedly got out of the nearby car he was in, firing into Martinez’s car. Martinez was hit with multiple bullets and killed.
Concepcion allegedly then got into the car Hill and Johnson were in, and all three fled the scene. A Boston Police detective who heard the shots began chasing the car, and city and state police ended up stopping the car on I-93. According to police, Hill was in the driver’s seat, Johnson in the passenger’s seat and Concepcion in the back seat; Johnson was wearing a court-ordered GPS monitoring device.
In court Wednesday, Hill and Johnson, represented by defense attorneys Rosemary Scapicchio and Christopher Belezos, admitted they had known about the plan to kill Martinez and had helped Martinez’s shooter, Raymond Concepcion, escape the scene of the crime.
In their opening statement, the prosecution intimated that Concepcion had also been in the car prior to the shooting, and that Hill and Johnson were co-conspirators in the plan to murder Martinez. Martinez’s death came just one day after he testified in a murder trial, incriminating an alleged Mission Hill gang member in the process.
The defense for Mr. Hill planned to argue against his affiliation with any such Mission Hill gangs, pointing to a clean criminal record and racial profiling on behalf of Boston police as reason for Hill’s innocence. Meanwhile Belezos, representing Johnson, admitted to Johnson’s gang affiliation and presence on the night of the murder, but argued he had no knowledge of Martinez’s testimony the day prior, and thus no reason to act in concert with Concepcion, the accused shooter.
After the conclusion of opening statements and a brief recess, Hill and Johnson changed their pleas to guilty, and jurors were discharged. They pleaded guilty to manslaughter and possession of a firearm without a license. The maximum sentence is 12-14 years for manslaughter and five years for possession of a firearm. The sentences can be served concurrently.
The men were set to be formally sentenced Thursday morning. A jury trial for Concepcion has been scheduled to begin Feb. 29 at 9 a.m. in Suffolk County Superior Court. Concepcion has also been charged with first-degree murder and unlicensed possession of a firearm.