Nearly three years after 14-year-old Endia Martin became a symbol of Chicago’s gun violence, a woman at the center of the street brawl that led to the teen’s death walked out of a courtroom a free woman.
A federal jury handed a rare loss to federal prosecutors Thursday, acquitting 35-year-old Vandetta Redwood on charges that she gave a .38 special caliber revolver to Martin’s alleged killer, Redwood’s cousin, who was 14 at the time. The feds said Redwood gave her cousin instructions to “shoot that bitch.”
Jurors were not convinced. Redwood showed little reaction to the verdict when it was handed down in the courtroom of U.S. District Judge Amy St. Eve. But later, in the courthouse lobby, she broke down in tears.
“I want to tell the Martin family that I’m sorry for their loss,” Redwood said.
After pausing for a moment, Redwood added, “I’m sorry.”
Redwood was the second person to go on trial in connection with the April 2014 slaying, the result of a fight over a boy that began on social media and spilled into the 900 block of West Garfield.
BACKGROUND: Uncle of alleged shooter of Endia Martin guilty of murder Woman charged in Endia Martin killing calls prosecution vindictive
But Redwood’s trial came to a bizarre end. Redwood interrupted closing arguments Wednesday, screaming that “they f—ing lied on me.” She attacked a key piece of evidence during her outburst — a cell phone video of the fight that preceded the shooting. She yelled, “they made that video up.”
Later, Redwood’s attorneys were accused of taking photos during the prosecutors’ closing arguments, and the U.S. Marshals Service confirmed Thursday that both were charged with a misdemeanor for doing so.
Also on Thursday, defense attorneys tried to introduce a last-minute witness, even after jury deliberations had begun. They claimed to have discovered a new video that shows someone else passed the gun to the accused shooter.
After the verdict was read, Redwood told reporters “I’m just tore up inside. I’m still stressed out.” But she declined to answer questions about whether she had given the gun to her cousin.
The prosecutors’ case hinged largely on the cellphone video, but the video itself does not convict Redwood. The feds conceded it did not show Redwood handing the gun to her cousin, arguing instead that “tell-tale signs” on the video would corroborate other witnesses’ testimony.
Cook County prosecutors tried to use that video against Redwood in the days after Martin’s death, charging her with mob action and obstruction of justice. Cook County Judge Donald Panarese Jr. quickly dismissed those charges in 2014, calling the cell phone video “choppy” and “poor.”
Redwood wouldn’t be charged in federal court until February 2016. The charges landed days after Redwood’s other cousin, Donnell Flora, was convicted in Cook County court of the murder of Martin and the attempted murder of another girl, Lanekia Reynolds, who was also wounded.
Flora was accused of first handing the gun to the alleged shooter. The feds say the teen handed it to Redwood before then taking it back.
The alleged shooter, who is not being named because she was charged as a juvenile, is still awaiting trial.
Flora has been sentenced to 100 years in prison.