A jury convicted Kenneth Williams in 2013, the murder of Hadiya Pendleton.
(AP, ZUMAPress, File)
CHICAGO – A getaway driver and known gang member charged in the 2013 murder of a 15-year-old high school honors student in Chicago was found guilty Wednesday of first-degree murder, in a case that has national attention and shed light on the city’s gun violence crisis.
Prosecutors said Kenneth Williams, 25, was behind the wheel of the afternoon Hadiya Pendleton was shot and killed as she and some of her classmates went to a public park after the final exams.
In closing arguments, Cook County Assistant State’s Attorney Brian Holmes told jurors that Williams was just as guilty in Pendleton death as an alleged shooter, Micheail Ward, whose process is underway.
“Williams is responsible and accountable for his own actions be responsible and liable for the actions of the District,” he said. “In the eyes of the law his hand on that trigger.”
The trial of the alleged shooter, Micheail Ward, is underway.
Pendleton, an honors student and drum majorette in the King College Prep High School, played a week earlier on President Barack Obama’s inauguration festivities. First lady Michelle Obama attended Pendleton’s four-hour funeral in February 2013. Pendleton’s death resonated far beyond Chicago, and became a national symbol of senseless gun violence.
Two separate juries were impaneled to hear the cases against Ward and Williams. The jury ‘ s were swapped in and out of the courtroom when evidence was offered in one case or the other.
Williams’ attorney, Matthew McQuaid, argued that the jury should not be influenced by emotions.
McQuaid said that many prosecution witnesses under pressure to testify, their testimony is unreliable.
“They say what they have to say to get out of the police,” he argued.
A number of the witnesses who testified at the trial disputed their previous grand jury testimony in which they involved the two suspects.
The prosecutors presented a video recording of the District known to the police. Early in the Quarter can be seen, deny the shooting in the park, as a detective accused him of lying. At one point, Det. John Murray reminded Ward that the first lady had attended Pendleton’s funeral. A lawyer for the District, Gina Piemonte, and commented on how detectives raised their voices, swore, and occasionally got physically close to ward.
Williams’ lawyer called as a witness in his defence. Gang expert Lance Williams said police had no evidence showing that the shooting was gang-related.
Attorney Ward is completed, the case as the jury that heard the case against Williams in consultation. After the defense rested and the jury was excused, the president of the court asked Ward if he would testify about his own name.
“Nah, I’m not going to testify,” he replied.
During the trial, prosecutors told jurors what has become a familiar story in Chicago: Gang feuds that turn deadly when members of a rival gang open fire, no worry about someone else and not the children ride their bikes, people sitting on their porches, or, on this day, high school students sitting in a park laughing and talking with each other after the final exams.
As if to underline their point, the trial started in the same week in which bullets fired in two neighbourhoods pierced two houses, one with finding and killing a woman as she sat on her couch, and the other injuring a woman while she slept in her bed.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.