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The following letter to the editor from Caroline Yang was printed in Sunday's News-Gazette.
It responds to the trial of Keving Hemingway and in particular the skewed article on the trial by NG reporter Mary Schenk
Thanks to our kind readers for notifying us of the letter's publication.
As someone who witnessed most of the trial of Kevin Hemingway, I noted a troubling untruth and a glaring omission in Mary Schenk’s report. First, Ms. Schenk’s assertion that Mr. Hemingway “admitted to Champaign police that he robbed Herbst” is simply not true. This was never revealed during the trial. Considering that this case carries the possibility of an extended sentence, it would be generous to call Ms. Schenk’s error irresponsible.
Second, absent in Ms. Schenk’s reporting is race. The eyewitnesses, whose testimonies were “propped up” by what is “circumstantial evidence” in Ms. Schenk’s own words, were all white. They did not give a unanimous description of the man who robbed Ms. Herbst. As Mr. Hemingway’s attorney Amanda Reiss pointed out – but gets ignored in a spirited rendering of Troy Lozar in action – the only thing that the witnesses all agreed on was that the robber was a slender Black man. Unfortunately, Mr. Hemingway is a slender Black man.
Ms. Herbst could not say for certain that Mr. Hemingway was the robber. What Ms. Herbst did say was that the man who robbed her was her height – 5’6” – and they were “eye to eye.” Mr. Hemingway is 6’2”. But he is a slender Black man.
And for this slender Black man, the jury of his peers consisted of nine white women, one Black woman, one white man, and one Asian American man, a fact perhaps worth mentioning, but thoughtfully laid aside by Ms. Schenk.
Caroline H. Yang
Champaign man convicted in robbery at McDonald's parking lot By Mary Schenk Created 07/15/2010 - 5:16pm
URBANA – A Champaign man faces decades in prison for robbing a woman at a business last summer.
A jury deliberated a little over five hours Thursday before convicting Kevin Hemingway, 21, who listed an address in the 600 block of North McKinley Avenue, of armed robbery for stealing money from an employee of McDonald's at 501 N. Mattis Ave., C, on Aug. 17, 2009.
Because the jury found that Hemingway used the gun to slug Terri Herbst in the head, opening a gash in her skull, he faces extended penalties of 21 to 45 years when Judge Heidi Ladd sentences him on Aug. 27.
Herbst testified Tuesday that she was taking a cash deposit to the bank and was walking to her car shortly before 11 a.m. when she felt someone tap her on the shoulder. She turned to see a man with a bandana covering the lower part of his face who demanded the money.
When she said no, he hit her on the head with the gun. She fell to the ground, hurting her knee, and he grabbed the bag and ran off across Mattis Avenue to the Alloy Engineering & Casting property.
A woman there saw him get in a car with a man in the driver's seat and wrote down the license plate.
That car was later located at the Prairie Green apartments in Urbana with Hemingway in the passenger seat and Charlie Vogel, 30, of the 2500 block of Prairie Green Drive, in the driver's seat. Vogel is also charged with armed robbery but his case has not been resolved.
In the trunk of the car, police found a gun and on Hemingway they found $1,900 in cash in small amounts bound with rubber bands.
Lozar argued those bits of circumstantial evidence propped up the eyewitness testimony of two people who identified Hemingway in court as the man who hit Herbst. One of those was her son, who was working in the drive-through inside the restaurant and saw a man hit his mother with the gun. The other was a woman customer who was in her car in the drive-through lane.
Further, Lozar argued, other witnesses testified seeing the car in which Hemingway and Vogel were later arrested in the parking lot across the street at Alloy Casting, where witnesses had said the robber ran after getting the cash bag from Herbst.
Lozar also pointed out that police obtained a receipt from the Sprint store near Market Place in Champaign saying that Hemingway had made a $300 cash payment about 30 minutes after the armed robbery.
Hemingway also admitted to Champaign police that he robbed Herbst.
Hemingway's attorney, Assistant Public Defender Amanda Riess, called Hemingway's admissions to police a "false confession" given by a man who "was essentially willing to say anything to keep his loved ones from getting arrested," a reference to co-defendant Vogel and Hemingway's girlfriend.
Riess questioned the identifications of the witnesses, saying their memories had probably faded after almost a year.