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At a coroner’s inquest on Thursday, February 18, 2009 into the police killing of Kiwane Carrington, six jurors ruled the death was an accident. This came after Illinois State Police Special Agent Lisa Crowder, who oversaw the investigation, stretched the facts in the case. Interviewed after the hearing, James Montgomery Jr., the attorney who has filed a civil suit on behalf of Carrington’s family, said the testimony was a “smoke screen” to make the youth look bad.
Crowder confirmed that it was a bullet from Officer Norbits’ gun that killed the 15 year old. Yet she also said that testing for the gunpowder residue on Kiwane’s clothes was never conducted. A forensics expert stated that from eye view it appeared as if the gun shot did occur at close range. Crowder’s explanation was that Kiwane had several layers of clothes on, making it difficult to conduct a test. Of course, the only layer that would require testing would be the outer layer. Crowder said the clothing is currently in the possession of the FBI, who is conducting their own investigation into the matter.
Kenesha Williams, Kiwane’s sister said after the hearing that she was “confused by the different stories.” Attorney Montgomery said that answers to the many questions in this case will come out in the civil suit.
State’s Attorney Calls Protesters “Lazy” After Collecting 1,700 Signatures
On Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2010, a continuance was granted in the case against Jeshaun Manning-Carter. The next hearing will be April 13 at 2:15 in Courtroom C. Jeshaun was the other 15 year old with Kiwane Carrington when he was killed by Champaign police officer Daniel Norbits on October 9, 2009. He is being charged with felony resisting a “peace” officer.
Before the hearing, a press conference was held by Champaign-Urbana Citizens for Peace and Justice outside the office of State’s Attorney Julia Rietz. CUCPJ’s Carol Ammons and Regina Pritchett, a graduate student at the University of Illinois, read prepared statements to the media [see below]. They announced that they had collected 1,766 signatures to a petition calling on the State’s Attorney to drop the charges against Jeshaun. Some 40 supporters were also present. Neither Rietz nor her secretary would come out of their offices to accept the petition or talk to the people.
Approximately 100 signatures were collected on Saturday when canvassing the North End. Not one person who was approached in the historically black community refused to sign the petition.
At Jeshaun’s hearing, supporters crowded the hallway outside the courtroom. They included members of the Graduate Employees Organization (GEO), concerned citizens from the community, and several black students from the University of Illinois who have been working diligently to collect signatures for the petition. On Monday night, they had held a teach-in on the Kiwane Carrington case at La Casa on campus which drew a large crowd despite the snowy weather.
I tried to ask questions of Rietz in the hallway after the hearing. Did she have a response to the 1,700 signatures collected? Why did she demand on drawing this case out for another 60 days? She refused to answer my questions.
Yet shortly after, Rietz announced that she would be speaking to the media. About a dozen supporters and members of the local media waited outside her office. When she came out and saw the crowd, Rietz invited select members of the media back into her office, behind closed doors, to respond to Jeshaun’s case. Members of WILL-580, WICD, WCIA, and WDWS were permitted. I was told I would not be allowed into the private conference. In an interview with the mainstream media, Rietz chided those who collected petition signatures, saying they were “lazy” and should instead dedicate their time to mentoring youth.
Statement by Regina Pritchett
My name is Regina Pritchett. I am a graduate student at the University of Illinois and member of this Champaign community.
Back in October I attended a lunchtime lecture series entitled: Meet the Police BEFORE 2am that hosted members of the Champaign, Urbana and Campus Police departments. And it was during that discussion that students raised concerns to the Police representatives about policing in and around the campus area. It was also here that a uniformed Champaign Police officer said to the students, faculty and staff who were in attendance that “you didn’t have to worry.” He said and I loosely quote “we would never treat you like we treat those people in North Champaign. Those people are rough around the edges and we have to be more aggressive with them. But we understand you’re students and you’re just trying to have a good time.” The Urbana and Campus police officers nodded in agreement. This statement, issued by a Champaign Police officer, was made on October 8th of 2009.
The following day on October 9th, 2009 at almost the same hour, a Champaign police officer Killed Kiwane Carington. Jeshaun Manning, the surviving witness that might testify against those men who killed his friend was charged with aggravated resisting arrest of a peace officer.
In honor of black history month, I’d like point to a quote commonly recited by the Great Rev. Dr. King in a letter from a Birmingham jail “that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” For me, Kiwane’s death and Jeshaun’s charges are the incarnations of this quote by Dr. King. I’m not clear on how officers can tell black students and community members apart and I wonder as a black person if I might face discrimination because a Champaign police officer thinks I’m one of “those people.” I have to know that the special treatment offered to me by the Champaign police officer might not be extended to me once I leave campus. This quote reminds me not to think of myself as part of some protected class of citizens. I know better. And I don’t feel safe. We sat down this week as students, faculty, staff residents all a part of this larger Champaign community to talk about what happened. I would like to also suggest that the campus and community are uniting on this front. And we will continue to unite until all me members of our community are safe from police abuses of power as well as abuses of the police power entrusted to our elected officials and governance bodies.
Those of us who have gathered at the courthouse are here to ask District Attorney Julia Reitz to not add insult to injury and drop the charges against Jeshaun Manning. As a community we demand equal and fair protection under the law―Police us all the same! We know that anything less than this is a violation of all of our constitutional rights enumerated by the 14th amendment. We ask that the Champaign police department might defer to their own value statement available online that says: “When questions arise regarding the application of Department policies, the interpretation resulting in the best service to the citizen should be followed.” We the 1,766 people who have signed this petition, we who have left work, we who have left classes and we who were able to be here today are here to represent the citizens of the Champaign Community who believe that the best service to this citizen, Jeshaun Manning, is to drop the charges and for the threat of a felony and reform school be taken off the table. Anything less will be considered a complete disregard for the citizens of this community, a violation of due process and a stain of unequal protection for people of color in this community.
Statement By Carol Ammons of CU Citizens for Peace and Justice
On behalf of the over 1,700 signatures that represent the sentiments of over 900 residents from the Champaign and Urbana community, we thank you for coming here today. And in memory of Kiwane Carrington and his grieving family, and Jeshaun Manning-Carter and his family, we stand in solidarity with the living victim in this case. We further believe that his mother has chosen the appropriate response to this incident by providing and participating in counseling with Family Advocacy Program with the University of Illinois Pschological Services and has been assigned a family advocate to address further family needs. We insist that the family should be allowed to take care of its own needs and should not use the courts to demand participation in a pilot program with no track record.
Four months after the incident, Jeshaun-Manning Carter remains caught in the snare of the criminal justice system. It is the position of CUCPJ that the best interest of this child is to drop these charges. By charging Jeshaun with aggravated resisting of a peace officer, the States' Attorney is projecting the burden of the killing of Kiwane Carrington onto the living victim as opposed to where the burden really lies, which is in the hands of the officers and their actions on October 9, 2009. Who pulled the trigger?
It is a sad day in this community when the unarmed witness to a killing has to face the same two police officers, who with guns drawn on October 9, 2009, fatally shot his unarmed friend with impunity. We are here today to continue to register the concerns of many citizens of Champaign County who are disturbed by the States' Attorney's decision to continue prosecuting the living witness in what should be a criminal proceeding against the officers involved in the killing of Kiwane Carrington. Instead, this State's Attorney has participated in the silencing of Jeshaun. What is missing from the investigative report are the testimonies of Kiwane and Jeshaun? Tragically, Kiwane was forever silenced on October 9.
We believe that the lack of supervision by Champaign of its officers threatens the safety of all residents and this prosecution mars the integrity of the police department and States' Attorney's office. The lack of accountability continue to tear at the fabric of trust between law enforcement officials and the communities they serve, making it more difficult to solve or prevent crimes.
We understand that convicting any cop who wantonly kills is a colossal task for even the most diligent prosecutor. However, that challenge does not remove the responsibility to provide for the truth to be known. The one protection that citizens have which ensures that all of the evidence is before the people, is due process. We, the people must hold these public servants accountable for their actions.
Therefore, Champaign Urbana Citizens for Peace and Justice in conjunction with the petition signers call upon Champaign County State's Attorney, Julia Rietz to drop the charges against Jeshaun Manning-Carter.