Donnell Flora said he has been like a father to his teenage niece since his brother was gunned down.
But instead of being a role model, Flora, who is paralyzed from the waist down from a 2009 shooting, coaxed the girl toward a life of violence when he handed her the gun Cook County prosecutors said she used to kill 14-year-old Endia Martin.
On Saturday, a jury found Flora guilty of first-degree murder in Endia’s death and of attempted first-degree murder in the shooting of Lanekia Reynolds, who was wounded in the April 28, 2014, incident.
“We believe justice was served today for Endia,” said Kent Kennedy, her stepfather. Patrick Judge / Sun-Times
Of Flora, Kennedy said, “Without him, our daughter Endia Martin would still be alive.”
“Justice was served,” said assistant state’s attorney Athena Farmakis.As Cook County Circuit Judge Thaddeus Wilson read over the jury’s decision, Endia’s family held hands and prayed. When they heard the guilty verdict, they quickly left the courtroom and, once outside, let out a joyful cry of relief.In the courtroom, Flora broke into tears and rocked back and forth in his wheelchair.Flora’s niece, now 16, is awaiting trial in Cook County Juvenile Court.
Endia Martin / Sun-Times files
Flora’s attorney, Joel Brodsky, said his client hadn’t intended to commit a crime.
Defense attorney Joel Brodsky, center. Patrick Judge / Sun-Times
“Making a negligent mistake is not criminal,” Brodsky said. “Criminal is meaning to do a criminal act. And I don’t think he ever intended to do a criminal act.”
The accused shooter and Reynolds used to be friends but then started fighting over a boy. The feud eventually spilled over to Facebook, where Reynolds threatened the girl by telling her that she would end up like her “daddy.”
But Reynolds, 18, testified she never was planning to kill her foe when they agreed to settle their difference that afternoon in the 900 block of West Garfield.
Reynolds said she confronted the girl with a combination lock tied to a rope after the girl tried to hit her on the head with the gun.
Reynolds and Endia initially had run inside their friend’s house when they saw the girl coming down the street with a swelling crowd behind her.
But when the girl motioned that she wanted to fight, Reynolds came out. Endia had come out to support her friend when the shots were fired in an incident caught on cellphone video.
Flora had accompanied his niece to the fight and admitted he brought a gun for back up. But he testified during the five-day trial that said he told the girl to give the gun to his cousin, Vandetta Redwood.
Redwood, according to defense attorneys, encouraged the girl’s deadly acts by telling her, “Shoot the bitch.”
While being held at the Cook County Jail, Flora admitted to another inmate, Tony Polk, that he gave his niece the weapon and proclaimed that Endia “deserved” to die, according to testimoney.
Flora also had harsh words for the girl he viewed as his daughter for speaking with detectives, Polk testified.
“If that b—- never opened her mouth, I never would have been in this s—,” Flora complained, according to Polk, who is in prison for aggravated robbery.
Mob action and obstruction of justice charges were filed against Redwood but were dismissed.
John Branscomb, who prosecutors said Flora passed the gun to after Endia was shot in the back, was convicted of a weapons charge.