On a sunny afternoon in the fall of 2015, 9-year-old Tyshawn Lee was so eager to hit the basketball courts at Dawes Park, he didn’t take the time to change out of his school uniform.
But the fourth grader found trouble was waiting for him at the South Side park, in the form of Dwright Boone-Doty and Corey Morgan.
Tuesday, the opening day of Boone-Doty and Morgan’s trial on murder charges, prosecutors said Tyshawn became a victim in a deadly South Side gang war that already had claimed the life of Morgan’s brother.
Morgan and Boone-Doty were seeking to avenge Morgan’s brother, Tracy, who had been killed three weeks earlier in a shooting that also wounded Morgan’s mother, Assistant State’s Attorney Margaret Hillmann told jurors in her opening statement.
“Shooting Morgan’s mother was beyond the pale,” Hillmann said. “There weren’t many rules in this feud, but family was off-limits. They were untouchable.”
Nearly four years ago, Tyshawn’s death brought national attention to the violence plaguing Chicago neighborhoods, with prosecutors and police contending the boy was assassinated to send a message to his father, an alleged high-ranking member of the gang that had targeted Morgan’s brother. Children might occasionally be mowed down in the crossfire of gang warfare, but gangs targeting an elementary schooler for death seemed like a new, horrific breach of the code of the streets.
Hillmann said that Boone-Doty and Morgan went to the park looking for the 9-year-old and won his trust after playing basketball with him. Boone-Doty, Hillmann said, lured Tyshawn to a nearby alley, trailed by Morgan and co-defendant Kevin Edwards in a black SUV. Away from the park crowded with witnesses, Boone-Doty allegedly shot Tyshawn.
“Dwright Doty took out a .40-caliber handgun, and he executed Tyshawn in broad daylight,” Hillmann said.
Hillmann went through her monologue twice, with only slight variation, Tuesday, as the case will play in front of two sets of jurors, one to decide the verdict against each defendant. Among other differences in what each jury will hear was key evidence against Boone-Doty — recordings of Boone-Doty bragging about the killing to a fellow inmate outfitted with a wire — that won’t be part of the case against Morgan. Hillmann said Boone-Doty was recorded bragging about the murder in graphic terms, rapping about the killing and laughing about it.
Boone-Doty’s lawyer, Assistant Public Defender Brett Gallagher, said that seemingly damning evidence was not the statements of a remorseless killer, but the braggadocio of a man trying to seem tough.
“He pretended to be bigger and badder, and more ruthless than he actually was, in order to survive,” Gallagher said. “Just because someone says something, doesn’t mean it’s true.”
Prefacing her trial strategy, Gallagher pointed to a more likely suspect, based on the alleged gang war outlined in Hillmann’s opening statement. Corey Morgan’s brother was killed, and his mother wounded; another of Morgan’s brothers bought the gun used to kill Tyshawn.”
“It was Corey Morgan who was looking for revenge,” Gallagher said. “The Morgan family’s motive, the Morgan family’s guns, the Morgan family’s crimes.”
In his opening statement, Morgan’s lawyer seemed to level the blame for Tyshawn’s death on Boone-Doty, or at least some unknown killer.
“That execution of that 9-year-old boy has to come from one singularly evil person, not from a plan,” said veteran defense attorney Tom Breen, never mentioning Boone-Doty’s name. “(Tyshawn’s) killer did so of his own volition and for his own reason, but not at the behest or (with the) help of Corey Morgan.”
The prosecution opened testimony by calling the detective that responded to the scene of Tracy Morgan’s shooting on Oct. 13, 2015, a few blocks from Dawes Park, one of a string of shootings carried out in an escalating feud between Morgan’s gang, a faction of the Black P-Stones known as the Bang Bang Gang or Terrordome, and the Killa Ward clique of the Gangster Disciples. Tyshawn’s father, Pierre Stokes, was an alleged member of Killa Ward, who was believed to be behind Tracy Morgan’s murder.
Detective Brian Drees testified that a total of 17 shell casings, from two different caliber weapons, were fired into a car driven by the Morgans’ mother. Corey Morgan was hit 11 times and died, his mother was shot once in the arm. Aside from that motive, prosecutors said that data from the GPS system in the SUV Doty and Morgan were riding in the day of the shooting shows the vehicle circling Dawes Park and parked in the alley. Data on Morgan’s phone, recovered during a traffic stop along with a pistol, also showed he was near the shooting scene. The gun, prosecutors said, was bought on the same day from the same New Mexico gun shop as the murder weapon, and both guns were then sold to another of Morgan’s brothers, Anthony Morgan.