CHICAGO (CBS) — Lambasting 24-year-old Micheail Ward for a “complete absence of empathy,” a Cook County judge on Monday sentenced him to 84 years in prison for the 2013 shooting death of honors student Hadiya Pendleton, just days after she performed in former President Barack Obama’s second inaugural parade.
Judge Nicholas Ford took Ward to task for accusing police and prosecutors of failing to find the real killer in his statement at his sentencing hearing.
“I am upset that I’m the one that’s going down for a murder that I did not commit, that I just got found guilty, and now I’ve got to go do my life in jail, because of something that all y’all had to do was take time to investigate it,” Ward said. “That’s all y’all had to do, was sit down and really investigate this crime, and y’all would have seen what happened. She would know what’s wrong with her daughter. She would know who killed her daughter for real. She would know the whole situation.”
Ford noted, while Ward was not required to admit guilt at his sentencing hearing, he also criticized the defendant for showing a total lack of remorse for Pendleton’s death.
“I heard the defendant’s protestations of innocence here, just like the rest of you folks here, a moment ago. He placed blame on almost any source you could imagine, other than his own conduct. It’s not required that he walk in here and admit to committing the crime, but what you will have noticed in his remarks was a complete absence of empathy,” he said. “He’s shown no repentance for his conduct.”
Getaway driver Kenneth Williams also was convicted last summer by a different jury, but his sentencing date has not yet been set.
Prosecutors said the two targeted Pendleton and her friends at Harsh Park on Jan. 29, 2013, thinking they were rival gang members.
The shooting happened about a mile away from former President Barack Obama’s home in Kenwood, just days after Pendleton had performed in Obama’s second inaugural parade.
“This defendant’s conduct that day was some of the most onerous that can be imagined,” Ford said in sentencing Ward for the shooting.
Ward’s videotaped confession to the shooting was a key piece of evidence at the trial. He told police he fired shots at Pendleton and her friends because he believed they were rival gang members and was seeking revenge, but claimed he only opened fire because Williams threatened to kill him if he didn’t.
Defense attorneys have said police coerced him into giving a false confession.
Pendleton’s slaying gained national outrage, sparked outrage in the community, and put the spotlight on Chicago’s gun violence. Her parents went on to become anti-violence advocates.
City officials later renamed Buckthorn Playlot Park after Pendleton to honor her life and memory.
Pendleton’s mother Cleopatra Cowley Pendleton said Ward’s sentence was acceptable because it was essentially a life sentence and that he’ll die in prison.