Man acquitted in murder retrial

Man acquitted in murder retrial

URBANA — A Rantoul man being retried for the murder of his neighbor almost seven years ago was acquitted this time around.

A Champaign County jury on Thursday found that Juvon Mays, 34, was not responsible for the shooting death of Corinthian “Shun” Spinks inside his Rantoul apartment on Dec. 20, 2008.

The jury of seven women and five men deliberated just over five hours before returning its verdict.
Mays, who’s been in custody since early 2009, was expected to be released from the jail Thursday evening.

The jury had the option of finding that either Mays fired the gun or that someone else fired the gun and that Mays was accountable for that person’s actions by virtue of having been present when the shooting occurred.

They agreed unanimously that the state had proved neither of those scenarios beyond a reasonable doubt.

In 2009, another jury convicted Mays of Mr. Spinks’ murder. Judge Tom Difanis, who presided over both trials, sentenced Mays to 60 years in prison.

That conviction was overturned last year by an Illinois appeals court because of the ineffective assistance of his then-attorney, Ronald Kesinger of Jacksonville. Kesinger was disciplined by the Illinois Supreme Court over his handling of the case.

The retrial began with jury selection on Monday and had a slight hiccup Tuesday morning when one of the jurors was excused.

First Assistant State’s Attorney Steve Ziegler said jail officials brought to his attention Tuesday morning recorded phone calls that Mays placed Monday evening to two different people in which he was apparently trying to get them to contact the juror.

When jurors are questioned during selection, they are addressed by their assigned number and not their name to protect them. However, Mays knew the juror’s name, the conversations revealed.

After sidebar conversations with Ziegler and defense attorney John Miraglia, Difanis questioned the juror out of the presence of his fellow jurors and asked him if he had been contacted by anyone since his selection the day before. He said he had not but Difanis excused him anyway and put one of the alternates in his place.

“A more prudent approach is to excuse him given the cryptic nature of the calls from the defendant,” the judge said on the record afterward.

Arguing for a conviction, Ziegler said there were two witnesses who identified Mays as the man they saw at Mr. Spinks’ door. One woman said she saw him pounding on the door just before a shot was fired. She and the other witness testified they also saw Mays leaving the building right after the shot was fired.

Mr. Spinks’ widow, Tawanda Spinks Lomelino, said her husband was shot when he went to answer the door to their first-floor apartment. The masked shooter then came in, pointed the gun at her and demanded that she “give it to me.” Lomelino said she didn’t know the shooter or what he was talking about. He then left.

She testified she had earlier seen two men in the hall when she looked out the peephole after hearing the knock at the door. That testimony about a second person in the hall was the reason for the accountability instruction to the jury. No one else was ever arrested for Mr. Spinks’ shooting death.

Ziegler also argued that in the path of flight of the shooter, who was wearing a camouflage coat and a stocking cap, police found the cap, a ski mask, a glove and two loaded handguns. A state crime lab analyst determined the bullet that killed Mr. Spinks came from one of those guns.

One of the witnesses testified she saw Mays running between the buildings where that evidence was found.

Also found in a storage room of another building in the complex was a camouflage Carhartt coat that had several documents with Mays’ name on them and gunshot residue on the sleeve.

The cap, the ski mask and the glove “in a perfectly intact chain” all had DNA on them that a state crime lab expert said could have come from Mays, Ziegler said.

But Mays’ attorney argued that the fact that Mays was charged with being accountable for the actions of someone else showed that the state’s case was “flawed.” The eyewitnesses were not as credible as

Zieglar painted them, Miraglia argued, and the DNA was not conclusive.

He also noted the state didn’t test the camouflage jacket to see if it had Mays’ DNA.

“Why not test the coat for DNA? Lazy? Myopic? They should have done it,” Miraglia argued, adding later, “You can’t believe beyond a reasonable doubt that Mays was wearing the coat.”

Regarding the accountability instruction, Ziegler countered there was a “very small time gap when no one saw what happened outside the door” just before Mr. Spinks was killed. “Two eyewitnesses said at least somebody else was in the foyer.”

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Justmy2cents wrote on October 22, 2015 at 10:10 pm

Wow!!! Let's all give a big round of applause to the great work done once again by the Champaign County States Attorneys Office. Hey let's not forget we are tough on gun crimes in this county, what a joke. Elections can't come soon enough!!!