After deliberating for 2½ hours Wednesday, a jury deciding the case of two men charged in the fatal shooting of a toddler at the Moody Manor apartment complex decided to go home for the evening and start fresh Friday.
Jurors had spent all morning and part of the afternoon listening to closing arguments from prosecutors and defense attorneys for Keshawn Jennings and Antwaine Jones, who are accused in the Aug. 9 death of 1-year-old Keondra Hooks and the wounding of her 2-year-old sister, Leondra.
Just before 6 p.m., Lucas County Common Pleas Judge Frederick McDonald cautioned the seven women and five men that they were not to discuss the case with anyone or listen to media accounts.
“Right now is a very delicate time for the jury. You are now a deliberating jury,” he told them. “It would be highly improper for any one of you to discuss this case with anyone else, to try to obtain information concerning this case. … You must decide this case only upon the evidence that’s been received here in the courtroom.”
Mr. Jennings, 21, of 244 Wasaon St., and Mr. Jones, 19, of 3145 Cottage Ave., each are charged with aggravated murder, murder, improperly discharging a firearm into a habitation, attempted murder, and four counts of felonious assault, each with gun specifications.
During closing arguments, defense attorneys argued that none of the state’s evidence — not the witnesses, the scientific evidence analyzed, or the testimony of former co-defendant James Moore — was enough to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt.
In particular, they attacked the credibility of Moore, 21, who was indicted on the same charges but was not on trial. Moore testified against his friends last week in exchange for what is to be a three-year sentence for involuntary manslaughter.
Ronnie Wingate, one of two attorneys representing Mr. Jennings, and Larry DiLabbio, one of two attorneys for Mr. Jones, both portrayed Moore as a “self-admitted liar” interested only in saving himself from what could be a life sentence. “If you can’t trust the messenger, how can you trust the message?” Mr. Wingate asked the jury.
Moore, a member of the Manor Boyz gang, testified that he was told a rival gang member was at the Moody Manor apartments that night. Mr. Jennings and Mr. Jones took guns from his aunt’s apartment and shot into what turned out to be the wrong apartment. Moore said he drove the get-away vehicle — Mr. Jennings’ grandmother’s van, which was seen on surveillance video leaving the complex just before the shooting.
A witness who called 911 told police she saw a van in front of her house on Vermont Street at the time, then saw two men get into it before it drove off.
Jeff Lingo, chief of the criminal division for the prosecutor’s office, said in a nearly 90-minute closing argument the evidence against Mr. Jennings and Mr. Jones is clear through extensive surveillance video that shows them — wearing distinctive clothing — coming and going from the complex just before the shooting, though scientific evidence including gunshot residue found on a red T-shirt and black hooded sweatshirt worn that night by Mr. Jennings, by bullet casings from two distinct weapons fired that night, one of which was later found a few blocks from the Moody Manor, and through Moore’s testimony.
“He’s a Manor Boy too. He’s known Keshawn and Antwaine, he told you, for years,” Mr. Lingo said. “He said it was difficult for him to be here. He said, ‘I love them like brothers.’ And yet he still came in here and testified, and I ask you this, why would you come in and admit your participation in something that you didn’t do?”
Mr. DiLabbio told the jury the evidence was particularly absent as it pertained to Mr. Jones. No gunshot residue was found on his clothing; none of his DNA on any evidence. While Mr. Jones is seen on surveillance video leaving the apartment building with Mr. Jennings and Moore, Mr. DiLabbio said, that does not mean he fired a gun that night.
Andy Lastra, an assistant county prosecutor, tried to dispel the notion that the state needed an eyewitness to the shooting to prove it was Mr. Jennings and Mr. Jones who fired the 11 9mm rounds and five 40-caliber bullets into the apartment where the two little girls were sleeping on the floor.
“There isn’t an eyewitness. There never was, but that’s the point,” he said. “It was designed so no one would see, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t do it.”
He said indictments were brought against the co-defendants long before May when Moore admitted to his role and told police what part Mr. Jennings and Mr. Jones played.
“Why did James Moore get the deal he got?” Mr. Lastra said. “Because he’s not a shooter. He didn’t fire 16 shots into that apartment that night. He didn’t supply a weapon to Keshawn Jennings and Antwaine Jones.”
The jury is to resume deliberations at 8:30 a.m. Friday.
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