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Man found guilty of shooting MSU student sentenced

Posted at 10:56 AM, Feb 19, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-19 19:30:58-05

LANSING, Mich. — The man found guilty of killing a Michigan State University student was sentenced on Friday morning.

A jury found Steven Washington, 33, of Mississippi, guilty of second degree murder last December, and unlawfully carrying a concealed weapon, along with felony firearm possession.

He was accused of shooting Isai Berrones, 22, during an altercation outside an apartment complex in 2018.

Washington was reportedly involved in a fight outside of the 25 East Apartment Complex in East Lansing.

The prosecution on Wednesday asked the judge for 30 years on count one saying Berrones was murdered in cold blood.

Washington's defense asked for a lesser sentence. He read a letter from fellow inmates of Washington's that stated what a model citizen he has been in jail.

His lawyer brought up that the wrong man was in court on Wednesday in front of Judge Clinton Canady III, and that it should be Keener getting sentenced.

In closing arguments, Washington's defense attorney Toby White said the state's "star witness" Ivan Keener lied on the stand about Washington being the shooter, because according to White, Keener was actually the one who pulled the trigger.

"The tragedy is giving that punk immunity because he's the shooter," White said.

Washington's defense also said the jury needs to believe beyond a reasonable doubt that Washington was the person who shot the gun, and that the only witness who said it was Washington was Keener.

White hoped that would be enough to raise reasonable doubt, but jurors didn't agree.

In rebuttal, the prosecution said the defense had a shifting target they couldn't back up with evidence. There was also strong, compelling evidence, bullets found in his girlfriend's car, that linked Washington to the crime.

"That means the person who shot the gun that killed Isai was in Angela Kelly's car because the same bullets are there. They match. They've been cycled through the same weapon. They've been loaded into the same magazine," Prosecution said.

"All of that evidence corroborates Ivan Keener's identification that this defendant, Steven Washington, was present on scene and shot and killed Isai Berrones."

The state said Keener, who started the brawl, aggressively confronted Berrones outside of the 25 East apartment complex, then prosecutors said Berrones tried to run away.

"Isai Berrones turned on that grass, ran west being chased by Ivan Keener right into the waiting gun of Steven Washington, who pointed that gun at his chest, fired it and left him to die."

But prosecutors told the jury not to believe everything Keener said on the stand, especially that he saw Berrones had a knife in his hand and had lunged at Washington.

They said that the evidence does not corroborate self-defense.

"It's not a frame job. It's an explain job--to try and explain to his parents, police and otherwise why someone that he brought into that house to be in a physical confrontation, ended up murdering a 22-year-old boy. That is the only explanation that makes sense with the evidence in this case."

Keener, who is charged with being an accessory after the fact in the death of Berrones, took the stand after an offer of immunity.

Prosecutors had to agree not to use what he said in court against him.

Keener told the court that he asked his two cousins, Jessica and Angela Kelly, to beat up two women who started a confrontation with him at a friend's house.

Those two women were Aieka and Miracle Chatman, who testified previously in this case.

Keener, the Kellys and Washington drove to the apartment where they got into a physical brawl with the Chatmans, according to Keener.

He said he saw Berrones exit a nearby terrace and he thought he was holding a knife.

Keener said he then saw Berrones just feet from Washington.

"They were squared off face to face and Steve looked like he had a gun out and it looked like Isai had a knife," Keener said. He said he heard a gunshot.

Keener said that he then left the scene with the Kellys and Washington.

Judge Canady did ask if Washington had anything to say.

Washington spoke softly, with emotion. He said that he didn't have much to say and hoped the family was doing okay. He added, "I didn't go there to hurt no one."

Judge Canady sentenced Washington to pay restitution to the Berrones' family of $14,000.

Washington, who has been in jail since October 2018, also received credit for time served.

The final time sentenced was 330 months-495 months served consecutively for all counts. (That equals between 27 1/2 years - just over 40 years in prison.)

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