Originally Posted Online: Oct. 22, 2013, 10:01 am
Last Updated: Oct. 25, 2013, 5:04 pm

BREAKING: Cornelius Carter trial blog -- guilty verdict returned

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by Rachel Warmke

Photo: Submitted
Cornelius Carter, of Rock Island, was just found guilty today by a Rock Island County jury of aggravated battery with a firearm.
Cornelius Davonta Carter

Dispatch/Argus reporter Rachel Warmke is live-blogging the trial of Cornelius Carter on one Class X felony count of aggravated battery with a firearm. Friday marks the third day of trial.

BREAKING: Jury finds Carter GUILTY 

3:35 p.m. The first trial for Cornelius Carter has concluded with a guilty verdict. Sentencing to be set.

3:34 p.m. Court officials quickly disperse from the courtroom and it is empty within minutes.

3:33 p.m. the prosecutor Ms. Hennings leaves the courtroom quickly, carrying a large stack of papers

3:32 p.m. Mr. Corter is escorted by multiple deputies out of the courtroom. Deputies indicate that it takes several verbal orders before the defendant agrees to enter his cell in the holding room.

3:31 p.m. A status hearing is set for Thursday, at which time a further sentencing date is expected to be set

3:30 p.m. Mr. Carter still has two other felony cases that remain pending in Rock Island County. Ms. Hennings says she believes that the state has a limited amount of time to try the other two cases.

3:29 p.m. Attorneys are attempting to set a sentencing date for next week

3:29 p.m. Judge Walter Braud refers the case to the probation department to prepare a presentence investigation report. 

3:27 p.m. defense attorney Nate Nieman and prosecuting attorney Cynthia Hennings return to the courtroom

3:26 p.m. The jury, comprised of five men and six women, received the case just shy of noon and deliberated about three hours before returning a verdict.

3:23 p.m. defendant Cornelius Carter, who was just found guilty by jury of aggravated battery with a firearm sits quietly in his chair at the defense table. His attorney Nate Nieman stepped out of the courtroom moments ago

3:23 p.m. The trial drew several dozen spectators over the three days of testimony but at this time the courtroom is largely devoid of any audience members

3:22 p.m. Jurors retire from the courtroom. Mr. Carter speaks softly with his attorney Nate Nieman, both standing at the defense table

3:20 p.m. Cornelius Carter found GUILTY of aggravated battery with a a firearm

3:20 p.m. Jury returns with verdict

12:31 p.m. Mr. Carter is taken out of the courtroom and told he will be given lunch.

12:28 p.m. The judge and the prosecutor returns. Transcript copies will be given to each juror. 

12:25 p.m. Judge Walter Braud briefly leaves the bench. Mr. Nieman and his client remain at the defense table while Ms. Hennings obtains copies of the transcripts.

12:24 p.m. However, the recorded interview itself was never entered into trial evidence and there is no written transcript of the interview. The only thing jurors can do in this instance is request a written transcript of Whitcomb's trial testimony.

12:22 p.m. Jurors also requested a written transcript of the interview between police and Arletha Franklin on Aug. 31, 2010, a day after Kameron Angel was shot. Rock Island Police Detective Greg Whitcomb, who conducted the interview, testified this week in court about what Farmer said.

12:21 p.m. In this instance, jurors have asked for a written transcript of the audio conversation between Mr. Carter, while incarcerated, and another female. The transcript will be given to the jury.

12:20 p.m. To clarify: during deliberations, jurors are allowed to ask questions or make requests concerning the evidence in the case. The judge and attorneys will review the jury's requests and make a decision.

12:19 p.m. Ms. Hennings says jurors can request a transcript of what Detective Whitcomb testified to in court. Mr. Nieman said he would prefer to let the jury "figure that out on their own." Judge Braud agrees.

12:18 p.m. "Alright, I am going to tell them there are no transcripts" the judge says, noting that the interview was never entered into evidence. 

12:16 p.m. The jury also requests transcripts of the Aug. 31, 2010 police interview with Arletha Farmer. Attorneys indicate there are no transcripts of the recorded interview; it was only mentioned through Detective Whitcomb's testimony in court.

12:15 p.m. Judge Walter Braud sits at the bench. "We have a request from the jury in writing." They have asked for transcripts of a phone conversation between Mr Carter and a female. It is allowed over Mr. Nieman's objection.

12:14 p.m. Bailiffs tell defense attorney Nate Nieman that jurors may have questions about a certain piece of evidence

12:14 p.m. Attorney return to the courtroom and Mr. Carter takes a seat at the defense table.

12:13 p.m. The jury may be returning. It is unknown whether a verdict has been reached or if jury members have questions

12:03 p.m. Noon has come and gone without a verdict. Jury members are scheduled to soon take lunch. All evidence presented at trial has been removed from the courtroom and the room remains empty.

11:38 a.m. In the Carter trial, attorneys have been asked to remain close to the courthouse in case jurors reach a quick decision. If a verdict hasn't been reached by noon, jurors will be given a lunch break and then resume deliberations.

11:34 a.m. If in the instance that jurors exhaust all means of deliberation and are still unable to reach a verdict, a judge may declare a hung jury. Prosecutors would then determine whether or not to retry the case. Attorneys may also decide on a plea bargain to avoid going to trial again. 

11:32 a.m. Jury members will now begin deliberations in private chambers. There is no time constraints on deliberations -- jurors are allowed as much time as they need to arrive at a decision. They may request to go before the judge if they have questions about jury instructions.

11:31 a.m. Mr. Carter is escorted out of the courtroom and Judge Braud leaves the bench. 

11:30 a.m. The judge says he has no opinion as to how the case will turn out, but tells Mr. Carter, "You could have not paid money for a better lawyer"

11:29 a.m. "Please be no further than a phone call away until 12 o'clock," Judge Braud asks attorneys, noting that jurors will break for lunch at noon.

11:28 a.m. Judge Braud says jury members will not be given transcripts unless they specifically ask for them

11:28 a.m. Now out of the presence of the jury, defense attorney Nate Nieman renews his request that no transcripts be given to the jury.

11:27 a.m. Judge Walter Braud says jurors may now begin discussing the case and dismisses the 12 from the courtroom.

11:26 a.m. Bailiffs are sworn in, promising to watch over jury members during deliberations. The one alternative juror is dismissed.

11:25 a.m. The 12-members of the jury must arrive at a unanimous decision and will be asked to each sign the verdict form acknowledging their decision.

11:24 a.m. To be found guilty, the state must prove that Carter knowingly harmed another person by discharging a firearm, Judge Braud says

11:22 a.m. The defendant, Cornelius Carter sits at the defense table, wearing beige khaki pants and white pants. He faces one Class X felony count of aggravated battery with a firearm. 

11:21 a.m. Jurors remained stone-faced during closing statements 

11:20 a.m. Notes made by jury members during trial testimony may be used during deliberations. Notes will be destroyed at the conclusion of trial.

11:18 a.m. Closing statements conclude. Judge Walter Braud begins reading jury instructions to the five men and seven women of the jury 

11:17 a.m. Why else would someone instruct their friend, "Make sure those hacksaws you get from the hardware store can go through handcuffs?" if they were not planning to escape, she tells jurors. 

11:17 a.m. Why else would a jail inmate try to saw through the bars of their window, to create a hole in the window other than to escape? Ms. Hennings said. She noted there is a ledge right under the defendant's cell window.

11:15 a.m. the prosecutor reviews Carter's acts after Aug. 30, 2010, the night of the shooting. "This defendant disappeared for five months before he was arrested. That is what a guilty person does."

11:14 a.m. "It's beyond a reasonable doubt" Ms. Hennings said. "Did the defendant knowingly shoot Kameron Angel and did he use a firearm to do it?"

11:13 a.m. "Did he ever think for one second -- ask yourselves -- 'I'll blame it on someone else because I know I'm going to survive this'?"

11:13 a.m. "He wanted some help."

11:11 a.m. A 17-year-old victim picks himself up, runs through a field, bleeding, scared and suffering from gunshot wounds -- how would such a victim have time or be in the proper state of mind to lie about his assailant? Ms. Hennings says.

11:10 a.m. You can draw inferences from testimony, Ms. Hennings said, noting that the victim was shot through the back of the neck. She tells jurors to consider the gunshot wounds the victim received and where they were located on his body.

11:10 a.m. What would be the victim's motive for naming Cornelius Carter as his shooter if that wasn't true? Ms. Hennings questions

11:09 a.m. If a gun is recovered and there were fingerprints linking the defendant to the crime, "that would be a prosecutor's dream case," Ms. Hennings said. But cases such as this one -- no gun, no forensic evidence -- goes on all the time, in courtrooms around the world

11:06 a.m. She gives the example of two people who get in a fight. Guy 1 punches first, Guy 2 retaliates and continues to beat him up. You may not like Guy 1, but "what guy number 2 did is still a crime." Ms. Hennings says it's not whether you like a victim, but whether the defendant harmed him

11:05 a.m. Prosecuting attorney Cynthia Hennings says victims come in all shapes, sizes and walks of life. "Court rooms all across this country don't close the doors on the bad ones."

11:04 a.m. The prosecution gets one last chance to speak with the jury because it's the state's burden of proof

11:03 a.m.  "As a matter of law, I can't argue outside of the evidence" Nieman says. He asks jurors to consider what questions Kameron didn't answer and whether he would have a reason to lie

11:02 a.m. the idea of a burned drug deal that lead to a hit? Tresvour testified that "it was b-s" Nieman says.

11:00 a.m. "What's the motive?" Nieman asks "Kameron is surprised his friend would shoot him. So am I. It doesn't make sense" Nieman says.

10:59 a.m. the state presenting witnesses to testify about Mr. Carter allegedly whittling a hole in his cell window at the jail "is the epitome of distraction." This alleged act took place three years after the Angel shooting. "Don't be distracted by that," Nieman tells the jury. 

10:58 a.m. "There is no evidence of a hit. There is no evidence that my client texted Kameron afterwards. There is no evidence that times my client to this crime at all, except for Kameron's statements" defense attorney Nate Nieman says during his closing argument

10:56 a.m. drug debts, hitmen -- all these ideas "show up" much later after the shooting "just in the nick of time," Nieman says

10:56 a.m. Angel's phone was never recovered, there are no phone records showing any phone calls around that time, despite Kameron testifying that he made phone calls on the walk

10:55 a.m. "That's perfectly reasonable. Who wouldn't do that?" Nieman asks the jury 

10:54 a.m. This idea that Carter was smoking weed while wearing rubber gloves, goes on a walk, "merrily reminisces" with his friend, follows him into a darkened, abandoned lot seems far-fetched, Nieman says

10:53 a.m. "That would fit really well in their story if their hitman has surgerical gloves."

10:53 a.m. "This is where he loses all credibility -- the gloves" Nieman says, holding out his hands

10:51 a.m. "This is their theory -- hitman." Even though he was the prosecution's witness, Tresvour denied ever being part of such a scheme, Nieman says. He adds that Tresvour testified that if he wanted Angel killed, he would have "done it himself."

10:51 a.m. Out of the presence of the jury, Tresvour Robintson testifies to something very different than what he told the jury, Nieman says

10:50 a.m. The state wants to talk about a supposed "hit" scheme

10:50 a.m. "They've had three years since this incident to get this story right" Nieman says of the two Angel brothers

10:48 a.m. Nieman says it's fishy that after Granvil Angel is told his brother is shot, Granvil just happens to run into the one vehicle that contains Carter, the alleged shooter.

10:46 a.m. Granvil Angel says he received a text from Kameron 5 minutes after the Kameron and Carter left the RI party.  "Where are these text message?" Nieman asks the jury, throwing out his arms. "We didn't see a single text message."

10:45 a.m. Nieman says that prosecutors put a detective on the stand to testify that Farmer said something damning about Carter in an earlier police interview (including that he spoke of a shooting). "Doesn't it sound great when Detective Whitcomb says it?" Nieman says

10:43 a.m. All of these witnesses were state witnesses, Mr. Nieman says. Based on Arletha Farmer's testimony, Carter appeared "normal," clean, untroubled. She says Granvil Angel didn't speak at all during the ride to the hospital -- "that's the state witness," Nieman says

10:42 a.m. the attorney reviews "The parade of horribles."

10:40 a.m. Lab techs and criminologists were "great." Nieman says. "Here's what they also testified to: no gun." Mr. Nieman said there was also no fingerprints. "c'mon, This is what they want you to believe." There is no forensic evidence -- DNA, fingerprints, clothing particles -- linking Carter to the crime.

10:40 a.m. "I want to cover what they didn't cover, what they didn't mention."

10:39 a.m. Like he initially told jurors, the prosecution's witnesses appeared to be experts who were professional. Nieman says, just like he says, the "lay" witnesses seemed "horrible" during testimony

10:38 a.m. Jurors listened to 15 witnesses over 3 days, Nieman says. "It's always risky to make promises during opening statements because you don't know what's going to happen during trial." he said, adding "Fortunately the promise that I made to you were fulfilled." 

10:37 a.m. Mr. Nieman begins his closing statement, thanking jurors for their service in this case. 

10:36 a.m. "It didn't matter" to Carter that he was shooting his friend. It was a cannabis-deal gone wrong and "He just wanted his money" Ms. Hennings says.

10:36 a.m. At the gas station, in the ambulance, at the hospital -- the victim only repeats one name: Cornelius Carter.

10:35 a.m. The fact that the victim, Kameron Angel's, phone was never found at the garage verifies that he didn't have a phone and that Mr. Carter likely picked it up around the time of the shooting, Ms. Hennings says

10:33 a.m. prosecuting attorney Cynthia Hennings said the day after the shooting, Farmer told police that Carter got in her car and spoke about a shooting. The prosecution questions how the defendant "knew about a shooting no one else knew about 10-15 minutes after it happened. How did he know about it unless he did it?"

10:32 a.m. Moments later, around 10:35 p.m., Farmer picks up Granvil Angel near Longview Park and drives several minutes to Trinity West Hospital

10:31 a.m. the prosecutor continues the timeline of Aug. 30, 2010 -- Arletha Farmer picks up Cornelius Carter around 12th Street and 12th Avenue, 6-7 blocks away from the garage where the shooting took place

10:31 a.m. Ms. Hennings questions: How could the victim have texted his brother if he was in an ambulance on the way to the hospital? Wouldn't the victim have used a phone to call 911 after he was shot if he did have his phone?

10:28 a.m. Continuing on Aug. 30, 2010 -- 10:30 p.m. Granvil Angel (the victim's brother) receives a text from his dad saying Kameron was shot. around the same time,Granvil  receives a text from Kameron phone, saying he was with Kia's (his child's mother)

10:26 a.m. Ms. Hennings presents what she believes is a timeline of the events on Aug. 30, 2010 -- 10:05 p.m.: victim and defendant leave Rock Island house party; shooting; 10:13 p.m. victim enters the gas station, bleeding and wounded; moments later, police arrive.

10:25 a.m. She reviews a map of the area where the shooting took place, the gas station where the victim wandered into, and the location the defendant was picked up by friends. "Basically what you have here is a six-block-radius, maybe seven."

10:23 a.m. prosecuting attorney Cynthia Henning begins her argument, saying that she is required to prove that the defendant knowingly caused injury to another person by discharging a firearm (gun). The two main factors are "knowingly" and "caused injury"

10:22 a.m. "Closing arguments are not evidence," the judge tells jurors.

10:20 a.m. Judge Braud addresses jury members. He reviews the last three days of trial proceedings and reminds jurors that they are not to hold it against the defendant that he has chosen not to testify.

10:19 a.m. This is usually the last chance attorneys have to persuade the jury and to present their version of the facts in a case

10:18 a.m. Closing statements are expected to be delivered by attorneys shortly

10:17 a.m. Attorneys having completed the jury instructions, Judge Walter Braud orders the jury to return

10:09 a.m. Attorneys usually review these instructions outside the presence of the jury to make sure each lawyer agrees with the wording and the way the instructions are presented. 

10:08 a.m. Jury instructions are a collection of legal guidelines jury members are instructed to follow when reaching a verdict. 

10:07 a.m. Attorneys are now reviewing jury instructions with Judge Walter Braud.

10:05 a.m. Soon, defense attorney Nate Nieman will have an opportunity to present any witnesses or evidence he may have. He has already indicated the defendant, Mr. Carter, will not be testifying. At the start of trial, Mr. Nieman told jurors he did not, at that time, intend to call any witnesses.

10:04 a.m. Prosecuting attorney Cynthia Hennings rested her case just moments ago. 

10:01 a.m. Mr. Carter has returned to his spot at the defense table. This is the first of three pending cases he has in Rock Island  County. He is currently on trial for allegedly shooting Kameron Angel multiple times on Aug. 30, 2010 in a vacant garage on 11th Street in Rock Island.

9:48 a.m. Court is in recess for a 10 minute break

9:47 a.m. Judge Walter Braud says the recordings do reflect badly on the defendant. "It does show a consciousness of guilt" he says and will likely hurt Mr. Carter in trial. But the courts have ruled this type of conduct should be shown to a jury "despite its damaging nature."

9:46 a.m. "the fiction that the defendant is at liberty" is upheld when possible, Judge Walter Braud says. Shackles and handcuffs are sometimes a reality the jury sees.

9:46 a.m. Prosecutor Cynthia Hennings denies this.

9:45 a.m. "Why not just bring him out in a Hannibal Lecter mask?" Nieman says

9:43 a.m. "Here we are showing the jail block, this, that and the other thing", Nieman says. "This is way, way more prejudicial than him coming out in orange"

9:42 a.m. "We go to great lengths to make sure the jury never sees him in orange," Nieman says. "All this is to keep the at least fiction in the mind of the jury that this guy just came off the street and just shows up to his trial." This is done so his "custody status" isn't associated with guilt, Nieman says. 

9:41 a.m. Nieman's last request has to do with Carter's alleged escape attempt - "That mini trial that we just put on," he says.

9:40 a.m. Defense attorney Nieman asks that transcripts of Carter's phone conversations not be supplied to the jury during deliberations. "If they ask for them, they'll get them," Judge Braud decides.

9:40 a.m. "There's bullet holes all over this victim's neck," Ms. Hennings argues. She says this doesn't seem like a case of reckless conduct, as Nieman suggests.

9:37 a.m. Nieman motions for a directive verdict. "The state hasn't met their burden of proof on the basis that the defendant was the one who shot Kameron Angel," he says. No firearm was recovered and no gun that ties Mr. Carter to the crime, Nieman says.

9:36 a.m. "Defense, does your client intend to testify?" the judge asks defense attorney Nate Nieman. "No your honor," Mr. Nieman replies. Mr. Carter assures the judge this is what he wants.

9:35 a.m. "Those are magic words. That means the state has completed their case," Judge Walter Braud tells the jury. He dismisses the jury to discuss several matters outside their presence.

9:34 a.m. "State rests," says prosecuting attorney Cynthia Hennings.

9:32 a.m. Investigator Mindy Meyers of the Rock Island County Sheriff's Department is testifying about a July 23, 2013 incident at the county jail, when pieces of a hacksaw were reportedly discovered in Cornelius Carter's cell toilet. Other contraband items were found in the nearby dayroom, including a phone, charger and pieces of cloth tied together.

9:31 a.m. Black electrical tape was located on the ground outside the jail's boiler room door, Meyers says.

9:30 a.m. In conversations on July 24 and July 27 (days after contraband were found), the defendant talks to two different people, noting that inmates had been locked down. In the latter conversation, Carter is heard saying, "They didn't catch me with anything."

9:29 a.m. July 13 phone conversation: Carter asks for his girlfriend. A woman on the other line says minutes have been put on a phone. Carter replies, "you're saying too much on the phone"

9:28 a.m. A "chirp" is when an imate sends a verbal message rather than stating their name during a collect call 

9:26 a.m. In another conversation, Carter speaks with his mother using another inmate's ID number. The number could have either been exchanged or seen by Carter and used.

9:26 a.m. July 1 phone call: Carter speaks with a female who has an infant. Carter indicates "I need a phone" and the female says "I'll get one for you"

9:25 a.m. Later in the month, Carter is visited by his mother who makes a hand motion or mouths about an object someone got for him

9:24 a.m. Mindy Meyers reads through the transcripts of the phone conversations. June 12: the conversation was between Carter and his sister, when Carter questions the size of his sister's phone

9:21 a.m. "The size... can not be bigger than this. It cannot be bigger than this," the man presumed to be Carter says.

9:20 a.m. "Whew, I'm nervous," the woman proclaims.

9:15 a.m. "Are you going to get it? I need two or three" a man, presumed to be Carter says. The female agrees.

9:06 a.m. A recording of a conversation in June between Carter and a female is played for the jury. The voices are muffled and hard to hear. The words "trial" is heard and Carter appears to be making some sort of a verbal agreement with the female. "Alright?" he asks. "Yeah," she replies.

9:05 a.m. a recorded tape on June 1: Carter asked a man to look after "D'Shon." "He's getting me some things" Carter was heard saying 

9:01 a.m. contraband items were discovered in Cornelius Carter's cell and in the nearby jail dayroom on July 23, 2013. After, Meyers searched through Carter's phone records at the jail from June 1 - July 27

9:00 a.m. An inmate must enter in a specific pin number assigned to them before making a phone call or speaking to a visitor

8:59 a.m. On July 23, Meyers was assigned to listen to jail-recorded phone calls that are placed by inmates

8:57 a.m. Each day, inmates are released from their cells into the dayroom (or common area within the cell block). Cell doors are typically kept locked throughout the day

8:56 a.m. Prosecution calls Mindy Meyers, an investigator with the Rock Island County Sheriff's Department. Meyers previously worked as a correctional officer

8:55 a.m. Jury is brought in for the third day of trial

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