A 27-year-old man has been convicted of murder after he gave his 14-year-old niece a revolver, which she then used to kill another teenager over a Facebook dispute.
A jury found him guilty of murder in the killing of the teen girl rejecting a claim by his defense attorney that the man was only trying to protect his niece when he brought a revolver to the confrontation that ended with Endia Martin dead.
The defense rested Friday, with Flora testifying that he brought the gun to the confrontation but never intended for the weapon to end up in his niece's hands. The shooting suspect, whom the Tribune is not naming because she has been charged as a juvenile, is now 16 and has yet to stand trial.
Donnell Flora, 27, was found guilty of first-degree murder, attempted murder and aggravated battery charges in the death of 14-year-old Endia, who Cook County prosecutors say was shot by Flora's niece outside a home in Chicago's Back of the Yards neighborhood in April 2014.
In closing arguments Saturday at the Leighton Criminal Court Building, prosecutors argued that had it not been for Flora, the .38-caliber revolver would have never arrived to the scene, and Endia would still be alive. He therefore had to be held accountable for his actions, said Assistant State's Attorney Barbara Bailey.
"Life is precious. No one knows that more than the family of Endia Martin. No one knows that more than the defendant," Bailey said.
Instead of protecting his niece from gun violence, Flora, who has used a wheelchair since a 2010 shooting left him paralyzed from the waist down, made her part of the cycle of violence, Bailey said.
"He became her provider — the provider of a handgun," Bailey said. "When there were about 1,000 other options that could've been taken by an adult, he chose to continue the cycle."
In arguing that Flora should be found not guilty, defense attorney Joel Brodsky brought up the role of self-defense in the case, claiming Flora's only intention in involving the gun in the confrontation was to protect his niece. Brodsky said the niece's rival, Lanekia Reynolds, who was also Endia's best friend and a witness to the killing who testified during the trial, had posted Facebook threats to Flora's niece.
"These were not mere threats," Brodsky said. "They were 'I'm going to kill you. I'm going to out you in the ground next to your dad.'"
Flora’s "only intent was to protect his niece," Brodsky said.
"It was not the brightest idea he ever had. But it doesn't change the fact that that was his intent."
But Assistant State's Attorney Athena Farmakis told jurors not to consider the self-defense argument because while Flora's niece had the revolver to the confrontation, Reynolds was armed with a chain with a lock.
"This, versus this?" Farmakis asked the jury, holding the lock in one hand and the revolver in the other. The lock couldn't possibly cause as much bodily harm as the gun, she said.
Endia's friends and family members were in court for the closing arguments, and sat still for the daylong proceedings, silently looking on.
The case went to the jury Saturday after hours of closing arguments, with jurors starting deliberations at 3:38 p.m. and coming back with their verdict just after 5:30 p.m.
After the verdict was read, as the jury left the room, Flora began rocking back and forth in his wheelchair and briefly put his head down.
Farmakis said her office was pleased with the verdict.
"We do believe that justice was done," Farmakis said.
After the verdict, Brodsky said he planned to appeal the jury's determination. He said he thinks "second-degree murder or child endangerment" would've been more appropriate for his client.
"It's a very difficult thing to see the body of a dead 14-year old girl ... and not want to make somebody have to pay for that," he said of the jury's decision.
Source: Chicago Tribune