With a few days to go before the expected start of the trial for two purported gang members accused of killing 9-year-old Tyshawn Lee, a Cook County judge has locked up three witnesses whose testimony is crucial to prosecutors and issued an arrest warrant for another witness.
Judge Thaddeus Wilson ordered all four witnesses into custody in late August, after they failed to respond to subpoenas from prosecutors preparing for the trial of Dwright Boone-Doty and Corey Morgan.
Wilson in recent months has repeatedly bemoaned the slow pace of the case, which landed on his docket more than three years ago. At a hearing Wednesday, one of the witnesses, a 20-year-old woman, sobbed as she was led out of the courtroom after Wilson ordered her held in Cook County Jail without bond.
“It pains me to do it. I have no other choice,” Wilson said, noting that he could still sentence the woman to jail time after the trial on contempt of court charges. “She left me no choice.”
Seated in the courtroom gallery, the woman’s father passed out and was taken from the courtroom by paramedics, though he is now in stable condition, said the woman’s lawyer, Michael Jarard. The Illinois Appellate Court granted an emergency appeal of Wilson’s no-bond order, prompting Wilson to set a new bail amount: $100,000 in cash.
“My client is not trying to evade any process server. She’s going to appear in court,” Jarard said. “We’re not running, she never ran; we’re willing and able to be here. She’s not the defendant, she’s a witness.”
The three witnesses arrested so far have already spent more than a week in jail and likely will remain locked up at least until they take the witness stand sometime after the trial’s scheduled start date of Sept. 17.
Those three witnesses and the 19-year-old man who isn’t in custody are expected to offer testimony placing Boone-Doty and Morgan at Dawes Park on the November 2015 afternoon when Tyshawn was killed. Prosecutors allege Boone-Doty lured Tyshawn away from a playground in the park to an alley across the street, then shot the fourth grader in retaliation for the fatal shooting of Morgan’s brother two weeks earlier.
Assistant State’s Attorney Thomas Darman recounted repeated efforts to reach out to the four witnesses as the trial date approached, claiming he was cussed out by the parents of one witness, an 18-year-old man who was 14 at the time of the shooting. Investigators for the state’s attorney’s office in August tracked the teen to a South Side high-rise building, where he was arrested after he was found hiding “in a closet, under a bunch of clothes,” Darman said.
The teen and the other witnesses had been warned they could be jailed if they did not respond to subpoenas, the judge said.
“I went to great lengths to explain what would happen. He went to great lengths not to be here,” Wilson said. “We are now on the eve of trial. He can’t be trusted to be released.”