PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – A man accused of shooting and paralyzing a Pittsburgh Police officer was found guilty on all counts Monday afternoon.
James Hill was sentenced to 30 to 61 years in prison.
Hill took the stand Friday and denied firing his weapon at all.
He theorized that the bullet taken from Officer Morgan Jenkins’ spine, which paralyzed him, was switched by police to protect his partner, Officer Michelle Auge, who he thinks fired the bullet.
Prosecutor: “So you think somebody switched the bullets and that Auge shot Jenkins?”
Hill: “Yes. I didn’t fire it at the scene. Someone else fired. I know it wasn’t me.”
He admitted on the stand that he ran from police because he had an outstanding warrant and didn’t want to be caught with a gun.
Previously, the jury was also shown evidence that the gun Hill allegedly used, jammed.
Prosecutors argued that had the gun not jammed, more shots could have been fired.
Also a representative from Gateway Corrections, a facility that houses inmates prior to their release dates from prison, testified that Hill escaped from their facility in April of 2012. That escape was a month before his earliest release date from a three-to-six-year sentence, and a year before the shooting in this case.
The jury deliberated about five hours between Friday afternoon and the morning and their verdict was guilty on all counts, including attempted homicide and assault of a law enforcement officer.
Officer Morgan Jenkins chose not to give a victim impact statement in court. But his dependence on a wheelchair spoke for him. Doctors say he is confined to that wheelchair because of the shooting at issue in this case.
The jury apparently believed the prosecution’s testimony that the bullet a neurosurgeon retrieved from his spine was consistent with the .9 mm weapon James Hill had the night he encountered Officers Morgan Jenkins and Michelle Auge in Homewood. There was a struggle and hill eventually broke free into a wooded section where the shooting happened.
But When hill took the stand Friday, he told the jury he never fired his weapon and that police likely switched evidence to frame him.
The jury did not agree, but his sister, who will raise money for his appeal on her facebook page, thinks he still has a case.
“I’m not happy with the verdict, because I believe my brother, so therefore we’ll just file an appeal and redo it all over again,” said Charlotte Hill.
But clearly there were no winners in this case.
“I prayed for the officer all the time,” she said. “I pray that he gets better that his paralysis isn’t permanent and I pray that he goes back to his regular self. I pray for him and his family.”
An hour after the verdict, Judge David Cashman told Hill that given his criminal history it was apparent to him that he was beyond rehabilitation. So he sentenced Hill to 30 to 61 years in prison. Hill is 25 years old.
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