Jury convicts Oakland woman of second-degree murder

A 31-year-old Oakland woman was convicted of second-degree murder Tuesday for killing a long-time friend by firing 16 shots at him and striking him six times when they argued in East Oakland two years ago.

Lakisha Young admitted during her trial that she’d never previously had a problem with 27-year-old Jeron Smith during the 10 years she’d known him and he didn’t display a weapon when they hung out and talked in the 3300 block of 72nd Avenue at about 1 a.m. on Oct. 4, 2014.

But Young said Smith seemed to grow more upset the more they talked and she was “scared” because, “I knew he was making threats.”

Young said she opened fire because Smith angrily asked, “What do you mean?” after she called him a name.

Prosecutor Keydon Levy, who sought a first-degree murder conviction in the case, said he believes Young killed Smith because they’d had a long-running dispute over the death of a mutual friend the previous year.

Levy said Young and Smith were both friends of 27-year-old Mikell Newell of Berkeley, who was fatally shot in the 1400 block of 92nd Avenue in East Oakland at about 4:30 a.m. on May 19, 2013, in a case that’s still unsolved.

Levy said Smith was with Newell when he was killed and Young pestered him with questions about the incident because she believed Smith was withholding information about it from her.

Young’s defense attorney Darryl Stallworth asked jurors to find Young guilty of the lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter because he thinks she had an honest if unreasonable belief that she had to shoot Smith since she thought her life was in danger.

Stallworth said Young and Smith were both high on drugs and alcohol, Smith initiated a quarrel and Young thought that Smith was armed with a gun and was reaching for it.

Jurors deliberated for two days before reaching their verdict late today. Young faces 40 years to life in state prison when she’s sentenced by Alameda County Superior Court Judge Trina Thompson on Feb. 24.

Stallworth said he’s “disappointed” by the verdict.

He said, “I was hopeful the jury could see the events through the eyes of Miss Young and appreciate her belief that Mr. Smith would get a gun and harm her.”

Stallworth said Young had seen Smith with a gun in the past and reacted aggressively because she had “hypersensitive perception” since she was raised by parents who had drug problems, was sexually assaulted by a relative when she was only seven and had witnessed violence and murder in her neighborhood.

Friends and family members of Young and Smith have packed Thompson’s courtroom during her trial.