The defense tried to argue that Wilbert Johnson fired the shot that killed Qaeed Braxton in self-defense.
But, the prosecution quickly disagreed.
“He shot a man in the middle of the back,” said assistant district attorney William Petulla. “It was a direct shot in the middle of the back.
“This case is first-degree murder.”
The jury agreed and quickly returned that verdict.
Johnson will be sentenced to a mandatory term of life in prison without parole by Common Pleas Judge Donna Jo McDaniel on Monday.
Braxton, 36, of Duquesne was shot and killed as he left the Ragtime Saloon on Amity Street in Homestead on Sept. 22.
According to Mr. Petulla, a man with Braxton had begun dating Johnson’s ex-girlfriend. There was an argument inside the bar, and a short time later Johnson followed the group outside.
He quickly retrieved a gun from his vehicle and fired, the prosecution said.
Less than 90 seconds later, according to surveillance footage in the area, Johnson was back in his car and leaving the scene.
At least twice before, Mr. Petulla told the jury during closing arguments, Johnson told his ex-girlfriend, “ ‘If I can’t have you, nobody can have you.’ ”
“He was going to kill anyone who stood in the way of his being with [her].”
Mr. Petulla also pointed to the defendant’s changing story when he was interviewed by county detectives. At first, Mr. Johnson said he wasn’t there at all. Then, he said he wasn’t involved. And in the third version, he claimed self-defense.
But Anne Marie Mancuso, who represented Johnson, told the jury they couldn’t speculate about what happened.
“They want you to convict Mr. Johnson because when they first interview him, he wasn’t truthful,” she said. “Well, lying to the police does not equate to criminal homicide.”
Instead, she continued, “There’s a real fear that, not for one second are the police going to believe you. Police relations are a lot different in Homestead than in Wexford, Fox Chapel, the North Hills or West View.”
Paula Reed Ward: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-2620 or on Twitter: @PaulaReedWard.