URBANA – Dondre Moore hung his head in relief. Franklin Crawford's mother cried as a judge read a jury verdict acquitting Moore of the first-degree murder of Mr. Crawford.
Moore, 26, who listed an address in the 1400 block of West Beech Street, Urbana, had been charged with fatally shooting Mr. Crawford, 22, of Urbana on the evening of April 6 as Mr. Crawford and a friend walked in the 1300 block of West Eads Street in Urbana about 10:25 p.m.
The jury's verdict, delivered shortly after 5 p.m., hinged on whether they believed that friend, Peter Campbell, who identified Moore as the gunman.
The jury was the third to hear the evidence surrounding Mr. Crawford's murder. Juries in July and September couldn't reach unanimous verdicts, and Judge Heidi Ladd declared mistrials in both cases. This jury deliberated 6 hours.
"All you can say is the jury did what they were asked to do," said Assistant State's Attorney Steve Ziegler, who maintained throughout the case that Campbell was believable.
"We have tremendous respect for the work jurors do in all these cases," said Assistant Public Defender Scott Schmidt, who has represented Moore in previous drug trials that ended in hung juries.
Moore will not be released from custody as he is being held for federal authorities on charges of distribution of crack cocaine.
In closing arguments Thursday morning, Ziegler began: "Dondre Moore shot and killed a young man named Franklin Crawford, and Peter Campbell saw him do it."
But Schmidt argued that Campbell was a liar.
"There is an undercurrent of deception that runs through everything he said on the stand," Schmidt said, noting that Campbell himself admitted he lied to police on the night of the shooting, saying he couldn't identify the shooter. Campbell also had previous felony convictions that threw his credibility into question, Schmidt argued.
"Peter Campbell is not a perfect witness," Ziegler said. "It would be nice if he were a minister or a banker. He is what he is."
Ziegler argued that there was other evidence to support what Campbell told police about Moore driving up beside him and Mr. Crawford and firing nine rounds out the passenger window of a black Grand Am.
Christopher Ferguson and Janisha McNeal testified they were outside a house in the 1200 block of West Eads, about two blocks from the shooting, listening to music when they saw an eastbound, black Grand Am drive by at a high rate of speed. They said Moore, whom they both had known for years, was driving.
Further, surveillance tapes from the Subway on West Kirby Avenue in Champaign showed that Moore walked in the store approximately 12 minutes after the shooting had been reported to METCAD. Moore's girlfriend, Olivia Butts, was working at the store that night.
Urbana police Sgt. Bryant Seraphin said he and another detective drove from the shooting scene to the store at the speed limit and found the trip took just under 12 minutes.
Ziegler said the tape showed Moore went directly to the restroom without even stopping to speak to Butts and that he went in and out of the store and was on and off his cellphone.
"Why is he so nervous? Why does he go out and move the car? Because he's just shot and killed Franklin Crawford," Ziegler argued.
But Schmidt said there was a lack of physical evidence to support that, including the fact that there was no gunshot residue found on the Grand Am and no weapon was ever located.
Ziegler said Campbell telling police a week after the shooting that Moore was the shooter could be attributed to the fact that he was "just plain afraid." Ziegler noted that Campbell was threatened by Moore about a week later on Beech Street in Urbana.
"He was afraid and it took him a little time to get his guts together and go to the police," Ziegler argued.