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More than five years after slaying, Hadiya Pendleton jury selection begins

Hadiya Pendleton

Hadiya Pendleton was shot and killed in January 2013. | Associated Press photo/Courtesy of Damon Stewart

The trial of the two men charged with the murder of Hadiya Pendleton draws closer, with one of two sets of jurors to hear evidence in the murder trial selected on Friday.

Testimony is set to begin Tuesday in the case. Micheail Ward and Kenneth Williams face charges of murder and aggravated battery in the 2013 shooting that left the 15-year-old honor student dead and two other teens wounded.

Because some testimony against Williams would be considered inadmissible evidence against Ward, two sets of jurors will be shuffled in and out of the courtroom during parts of the trial. A panel of seven men and five women was selected Friday to stand in judgment of Williams, and a second 12-member jury will be picked Monday to weigh evidence against Ward.

Selection went quickly Friday; it took little more than two hours to select 12 jurors and two alternates. During questioning by Cook County Judge Nicholas Ford, more than half the jurors said they knew nothing about the case.

Kenneth Williams (left) and Micheail Ward

Kenneth Williams (left) and Micheail Ward are charged in the January 2013 fatal shooting of 15-year-old student Hadiya Pendleton just days after she performed with her high school band at then-President Barack Obama’s inaugural festivities. Jury selection in their trial began Friday. | Cook County Sheriff’s Office photos, distributed by the Associated Press

Some five and a half years ago, Pendleton’s murder was a national news story; the teen was gunned down just days after performing at President Barack Obama’s second inauguration festivities in Washington D.C. First Lady Michelle Obama, a South Side native, attended the funeral. Pendleton was mentioned by name in Obama’s 2013 State of the Union address, and her mother was in the Capitol during that speech.

Prosecutors have said Ward opened fire on a crowd of teens who had taken cover from the rain beneath an open-walled shelter in Harsh Park, about a block from King College Prep, where Pendleton was a sophomore. Ward and Williams were members of the SUWU gang faction that operated in the neighborhood, and were targeting what they thought were members of the rival 4-6 Terror gang. Ward, who confessed after a marathon interrogation, said Williams ordered him to open fire, and drove the getaway car.

Ford on Friday said TV crews can film parts of the trial, though he allowed a dozen witnesses — most of them teens who were in the park at the time of the shooting, including two who were wounded — to opt out of having cameras show them.