Carter found guilty in shooting

Originally Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2013, 6:54 pm
Last Updated: Oct. 25, 2013, 6:55 pm
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By Rachel Warmke,

After a three-day trial, a Rock Island County jury on Friday found Cornelius Carter guilty of the 2010 shooting of a friend he had known since childhood.

Sitting at the defense table, Mr. Carter, 21, of Rock Island, offered little reaction as the verdict was announced around 3:20 p.m. Once escorted out of the courtroom, deputies reportedly had to ask several times before he willingly entered his holding cell.

Spectators, who had filled the seats of the courtroom during trial testimony, were noticeably absent for the reading of the verdict.

Mr. Carter, who is unbondable due to a federal hold, remained in jail Friday. A status hearing is set for Thursday to discuss a sentencing date.

The seven women and five men of the jury received the case shortly before noon Friday. After a 90-minute lunch and two hours of deliberations -- halted several times to request transcripts of evidence and copies of photographs -- they returned a guilty finding on one Class X felony count of aggravated battery with a firearm.

A juror who spoke under the condition of anonymity said deliberations would have gone even quicker had one panel member not showed some initial hesitation.

To find Mr. Carter guilty, jurors had to determine he knowingly fired a gun and caused injury to another person.

"What really stuck out to most of us was that, when the guy who was shot was up there (testifying), the defendant couldn't even look at him," said the juror, who declined to provide a name for fear of retribution.

Prosecutors said the victim, Kameron Angel, and Mr. Carter had known each other since they were 9 or 10. On Aug. 30, 2010, the two left a house party on Glenhurst Court in Rock Island and walked several blocks to a vacant garage on 11th Street where Mr. Carter was expected to sell Mr. Angel a gun.

Instead, Mr. Angel testified he was shot seven times by his friend, including multiple times in the neck, and left for dead. He has since recovered, but testified he still has pains from a bullet that remains in his back.

Although a gun was never located, the fact that the victim testified he saw the defendant shoot him was a significant factor, the juror said.

The juror added that the group spent no time discussing the prosecution's claim that the shooting was a murder-for-hire scheme stemming from a drug deal gone bad. Nor did they consider testimony from Rock Island County Jail officials about Mr. Carter's alleged escape attempt earlier this year, the juror said.

"All of us agreed that was not relevant to what we were doing," the juror said.

Prosecuting attorney Cynthia Hennings said testimony about the attempted escape was intended to make jurors question why the defendant would try to flee jail if he was innocent.

"It shows consciousness of guilt," Ms. Hennings said.

Jurors were not told what sentence Mr. Carter could face if found guilty. The charge is not probationable and Judge Walter Braud, who presided over the trial, could impose a prison sentence of six to 30 years -- at least 85 percent of which must be served.

Mr. Carter's attorney, Nate Nieman, said it will be up to Judge Braud if the sentence runs concurrent or back-to-back with a 10-year federal sentence Mr. Carter already is serving.

"We definitely are going to appeal," said Mr. Nieman, who said he will seek the minimum amount of prison time for Mr. Carter. During the trial, Mr. Nieman argued there was no forensic evidence linking Mr. Carter to the shooting.

Mr. Carter faces two more felony cases in Rock Island County. One accuses him of kidnapping a woman in 2011; another is related to this year's alleged jail break.

Attorneys said it is too early to know how Friday's verdict will effect those cases.

"It is possible the sentencing could be pushed back until the conclusion of the other two cases, or whether there's some sort of plea agreement that bundles everything together," said Mr. Neiman who will represent Mr. Carter in all of the cases. "There's a lot to figure out about where we're going to go from here."

In coming weeks, prosecutors will review the cases to determine whether to proceed with additional trials, Rock Island County State's Attorney John McGehee said.

"At this point, we are intending on taking those (charges) forward," he said.

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