CHICAGO (CBS) — Jurors have convicted Micheail Ward of first-degree murder in the 2013 slaying of honor student Hadiya Pendleton, after a separate jury convicted getaway driver Kenneth Williams on Wednesday.
Prosecutors and defense attorneys presented their closing arguments Thursday morning, and the jury deliberated until 4:30 p.m. before announcing the verdict about 30 minutes later.
The case, which has stretched on for five years, is symbolic of Chicago’s gang violence problem.
Prosecutors had alleged Ward, 24, opened fire into the South Side’s Harsh Park, shooting Pendleton in the back and wounding two others. The park is about a mile from Obama’s Chicago home in the Kenwood neighborhood.
Ward showed little reaction as the verdict was read. Afterward, he exchanged whispers with his attorney.
Outside the courtroom, Pendleton’s parents, Nate and Cleopatra, expressed relief in the double convictions of Ward and Williams, who were said to have killed Pendleton in a botched attempt to shoot at rival gang members.
“They got what they deserved and it’s time to move on,” Nate Pendleton said. “(We’re) just ready to move onto the next page.”
Cleopatra struggled to describe the emotions a mother goes through after losing a child.
She told reporters she wasn’t ready to forgive the men convicted of murdering her daughter as she played in a park with friends after school.
“She didn’t live a life like that and she didn’t deserve it,” Cleopatra said. “Who you were before you lost your child is forever tarnished.”
Micheail Ward’s mom, April Ward, claimed the police coerced her son into a confession, and said she was disappointed and hurt by the verdict.
“I’m disappointed how they just harassed these kids into a confession,” April Ward said. “They sat there and manipulated him into saying what they wanted to hear.”
Evidence shown in court during the trial included a video of Ward tearfully telling police he didn’t mean to harm Pendleton. He said he fired shots in the park after Williams threatened to kill him if he refused.
Prosecutors wrapped up their case against Ward on Wednesday by showing his jury several hours of his videotaped interrogation, which ended with him tearfully admitting to shooting Hadiya and two of her friends.
“I didn’t want to do that s***, man. I liked that girl,” Ward told detectives.
Ward later recanted, and his defense attorneys have argued detectives coerced and manipulated Ward into a false confession.
Defense attorneys also argued there is no physical evidence linking either Ward or Williams to the crime.
The jury that convicted Williams in the case deliberated less than three hours before returning the guilty verdict.
Both Ward and Williams were also convicted of two counts of aggravated battery for wounding two others in the shooting.