WAUKEGAN, Ill. (CBS) — There was heartache this week for a Chicago family – after a 14-year-old boy was shot and killed and his cousins were charged with his murder, even though none of them pulled the trigger.
As CBS 2’s Eric Cox reported, it is all because of a 200-year-old law.
“This just caused a lifetime of pain,” said Chloe Pollion of the situation her son, Kendrix Cooper is now in. “He’s just constantly reliving that night.”
Early Tuesday, Kendrix and five other teens all hopped in a stolen Lexus sport-utility vehicle and drove up to Lake County.
Police said they were on the property of a 75-year-old man, and the homeowner feared for his life as some of the teens approached him. The older man opened fire, shooting Cooper’s cousin – Jaquan Swopes, 14 – in the head.
Swopes died. The other five teens – four of whom are minors – are now all on the hook for his death – facing a first-degree murder charge and being tried as adults due to Illinois’ felony murder law.
“They didn’t mean for none of this to happen,” said Erica Annon.
Annon is the mother of three of the accused – Diamond Davis, 18; and twins Steven and Stacy Davis, 17.
Officers said her children and a fourth teen led police on a pursuit spanning over 40 miles shortly after Swopes was shot – only ending after the stolen SUV’s tank reached empty in the West Loop.
“I just hope when they do get out of jail, they think about all the things that led up to this situation,” Pollion said.
It is a situation that could put the teens in prison for 20 to 60 years.
But was a felony murder charge for all the teens the right call?
“I would not have charged murder in this case,” said CBS 2 Legal Analyst Irv Miller, a former Cook County prosecutor. “This is one of the cases where you say, ‘Hey listen, does this crime really fit the punishment of 20 to 60 years in the penitentiary for a kid?’”
The felony murder rule has been part of Illinois law since 2017. It allows prosecutors to charge anyone involved in a murder to be charged, even if they didn’t pull the trigger.
The statute still stands in 44 states, but nearby Michigan and Kentucky have both done away with it. In California, a new law scales back a prosecutor’s ability to use felony murder when charging accomplices.
“It does lead to injustices,” Miller said. “That’s the problem with it.”
The family of the teens is holding onto hope that an injustice won’t happen to their teens.
“We’re going to get through this,” Pollion said. “We will. We will.”
Lake County State’s Attorney Mike Nerheim stands by his decision to charge the teens with first-degree murder, telling CBS 2 they are ultimately responsible for Swopes’ death.
There is a pending Illinois bill similar to the new law in California. It would require prosecutors to look closer at the evidence before applying the felony murder rule.