Coroner’s Inquest Into Kiwane’s Death / Court Hearing For Jeshaun

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.

A fifteen year old shot dead is by any measure a tragedy....

   Too bad that the person ahead of me felt they needed to be anonymous-- it just lends the appearance that there is very little transpaency here .... could the writer be connected to the case?

 

Since it seems a fair question given that  almost every one on this case high and low knows everyone else --(does it seesm to anyone else that the police, the DA and the main stream media all seesm pretty close to one another?   I mean, who's watching this team?)

  Americans who prefer democracy and value freesdom more than they like police states, usually like a little more space between those areas... a few checks and balances. The behavior is truly a little clubby if you ask most people.

If there is a  vote of 'No confidence' coming from the communuty it is due to the poor impression that the DA has given jumping out immediately making supportive cooing sounds about the police officers involved before the investgation had even begun. (Not what I would call objective.): Conflicting  statements by police and an attempt to 'SuperSize' two trunat high school kids into public  menaces who  deserved what they got,  is certainly not helping to build the trust between the police and the community either.

 Lets start at the begginning...the most basic level..

 First : It is troubling that a fifteen year old is dead, whose only crime seems to have been being truant from his freshman year of high school??  I think most people wuth a kid would say yes.

( Can we  as a first point all agree that any kid getting shot at fifteen IS a tragedy ?)

Second: The police and DA seem to be operating as if its business as usual, sending officers back to work the next day.

Third: Dope or no dope, truant or not--    a fifteeen year old boy with his life ahead of him  is dead at the hands of the police. We need to hit the 'pause' button here.  When we start thinkng that's okay, not worthy of further attention, that's when i want outta here.

 This could be anyones son.

A big problem is one of perception:  The public offiocials in this case are not giving the impresssion that any sort of tragedy has occured.

They are acting more like they did the community a favor, tracking down a couple of real threats to public sercity and executing one of them on our behalf.   Few of thinking people would believe that on the face of the evidence.

A campaign to distract the public from the school boy nature of the victims by focussing on 'how much THC was in his system', as if a gulible public will somehow transform this boy into Public Enemy # 1-- if he's high. bUt apparently that only true if you live in a certain neighborhood.

(The last time I checked, being truant wasn't a crime punishable by execution. Even if you were smoking dope and being truant, we do not say its just fine if the police shoot high school freshman when ever they are found  skipping school, no matter how high they get....Am I right?)

 Wouldn't the communty  have many MORE questions (OR that least the DA might feel more obliged to be asking them HERSELF  if this kid was shot after smoking weed and skipping school if this death took place in a white suburban community and the "criminals "?  were 15 year old white kids??)

  I think if we are honest we'd have to say yes..

 That's all the community is saying :  Why are you treating this as if what happened is okay?

Why are you demonizing these community members that are asking for answers ?

Why are you trying to divide the community members into segments when all of them are  asking questions...?

What are you hiding???

 

All that is being asked here is ----How did this terrible thing happen? 

Thepolice and DA seem to be insulted at the very  notion that have anything to explain-- given their attacks on the community who dared ask questions.

Their failure to repsond to community voices and indeed to this family-- and the communty at large-- merely underscores their disdain and contempt for the people they are supposed to serve.

 Doesn't the community have a right to ask how this happned?  I think so. Public servants are accountable to the larger commnity.

 

 Food for thought: "Do we want to live in a community where it becomes so routine and commonplace that a young person can get 'taken out' by the police and the police and the elected 'servants of the law' do  NOT feel any partciluare need to conduct an investigation that could stand up to publice scrutinty?  I don't.

When policing is done well we expect loss of life at the hands of the police to be  1) rare and 2) to have just cause and 3)  transparency.

  We know that police are not perfect and that thay can make a mistake. 

We also know they have a tough job and that things are not always easy  to discern in a split second.

So this is not about 'hating on' the police!  But rather the APPEARANCE of the police showing a contempt for the community they are supposed to serve with a bad attitude.

Unfortunately the "Us" vs "them" mentality, is on so much display here. The DA who is susposed to be representing the communty is not at all shy about saying that her interest is in protecting the e police, instead of the people's interests.

  She's not only singing from the same hymnal, she's not shy about telling you she wrote all the lyrics.

Professionalsim, Truth and the American Way are all suffering in  this city- The community is crying out for justice,  an investigation into this tragedy that is respectful of the harm done and not shoruded in secrecy,  may be the only way to revive it.

J Squeri

CUCPJ wants to turn judicial system upside down

Petition drive badly misguided
Mon, 03/08/2010 - 10:04am | The News-Gazette

Displaying thumbs up or down is no way to approach the law.

Criminal cases, whether serious or relatively minor, are built on evidence and law. But one might not realize that based on the activities of a local group that has passed petitions demanding the dismissal of charges filed against a local teen in juvenile court.

The group circulated and then presented to the state's attorney's office an estimated 1,700 signatures from individuals seeking the dismissal of a criminal case filed against Jeshaun Manning-Carter.

The case stems from an Oct. 9 incident in which Manning-Carter and 15-year-old Kiwane Carrington allegedly were trying to force their way into a residence in the 900 block of West Vine Street in Champaign. A neighbor called 911 call to report a suspected burglary in process.

When police arrived, the youths attempted to flee and struggled with two police officers, Chief R.T. Finney and Office Daniel Norbits. During the struggle, police said, Norbits accidently discharged his service weapon, killing Carrington.

The incident is tragedy both for Carrington's friends and family members as well as the community, and the event has become a cause celebre for local residents who feel the shooting reflects an institutional bias by police against members of minority groups. So they have taken up Manning-Carter's cause, insisting that the charge against him be dismissed.

State's Attorney Julia Rietz, quite correctly, refused to do so, explaining that public opinion plays no role in prosecuting cases.

Rietz's logic seems elementary. But let's look at it from another perspective.

Suppose, for instance, that a member of the law enforcement community or a star athlete was charged for some type of criminal misconduct. Would those passing the petitions on Manning-Carter's behalf think it appropriate if friends and supporters of the defendant passed petitions demanding the case be dropped? Or would they think it a power play reflecting the attitude that some people are above the law? Further, would they be understanding if Rietz acquiesced to such pressure or would they be outraged?

The answers to those questions are obvious. The justice system would be a shambles if the prosecution of criminal cases became the subject of popularity contests.

That's why the petition drive on Manning-Carter's behalf is not just naive, but an assault on the entire concept of the rule of law.

Manning-Carter is represented by a lawyer who is working with Rietz's office to resolve this case based on its merits. That is how it has to be. To handle it any other way would turn the entire concept of the judicial system upside down.

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