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Trial Begins For Derrion Albert Murder Suspect

Derrion Albert (CBS Local)

Derrion Albert (CBS Local)

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UPDATED 12/07/10 11:08 a.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) – The brutal murder of 16-year-old honor student Derrion Albert shocked Chicago and the entire country last year.

Now, opening statements have begun in Cook County Juvenile Court for the trial of one of five suspects accused in Albert’s beating death. The suspect is a teenage boy.

As CBS 2’s Mike Puccinelli reports, Albert was walking home from Fenger High School on Sept. 24, 2009, when he was attacked in front of the Agape Community Center, 342 W. 111th St.

In court on Tuesday, Albert’s family sobbed as jurors watched a tape of Derrion being struck in the head with a railroad tie, Newsradio 780’s Mary Frances Bragiel reports.

Albert was caught in a fight between two groups of Fenger students — one from the Altgeld Gardens neighborhood and another who live in an area known as the “Ville,” prosecutors said. Albert was bludgeoned in the head with the railroad tie, stomped, punched and pushed to the ground during the melee, prosecutors said.

LISTEN: Newsradio 780’s Mary Frances Bragiel Reports

The fight was captured on a cell phone video, which was seen around the world and drew unflattering attention to the city.

Albert’s death prompted President Barack Obama to call for a national conversation on violence. The month after the incident, U.S. Atty. Gen. Eric Holder and U.S. Education Sec. Arne Duncan visited Chicago to discuss ways to combat youth violence.

Prosecutors say the teenager now on trial, who was a freshman at Fenger at the time, threw the blow that rendered Albert unconscious. The teenage suspect’s attorney argued that his client should be cleared of murder because Albert was able to get up for a moment after being hit.

His attorney argues that he only struck Albert one time with his fist, and thus played a minuscule role in Albert’s death.

If convicted, the boy could be locked up until he is 21.

At the boy’s trial, jurors are being asked to decide for themselves what the boy’s role was. A large video screen was unrolled in the courtroom, and prosecutors will play the videotape several times throughout the proceedings.

Silvonus Shannon, 20; Eric Carson, 17; Eugene Riley, 19; and Lapoleon Colbert, 20, are also charged in Albert’s murder, all as adults.

A jury trial for Shannon will begin Jan 7, 2011, Cook County State’s Attorney’s office spokeswoman Tandra Simonton said earlier this year.