Criminal Justice

Maximum sentence sought in shooting of Chicago honor student; defense says politics at play

Michael Ward, 18, and Kenneth Williams, 20, have been charged with first-degree murder, two counts of attempted murder and aggravated battery with a firearm, in the shooting death of Chicago honor student Hadiya Pendleton.

The duo—who were taken into custody just hours after first lady Michelle Obama and other dignitaries attended Pendleton’s funeral Saturday—appeared in court Tuesday, where new details of the alleged case of mistaken identity in a gang-related retribution emerged, Reuters reports. They were ordered held without a court bond at the hearing.

“Ward confessed and indicated Hadiya was not the intended target. They got it all wrong,” Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy said Monday, NPR reports.

The case has garnered national attention in the wake of several recent high-profile shootings at the center of gun-control talks and was referenced in President Obama’s State of the Union address Tuesday night.

Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez is seeking the maximum punishment possible, which could be life in prison for Ward, who confessed to shooting Pendleton, Reuters reports.

Alvarez and other leaders are pushing for tougher gun laws that would increase the minimum sentences and require offenders to serve at least 85 percent of their sentences, according to NPR. Current laws allow offenders to be released after serving no more than half their sentences and sometimes obtain their release after a matter of weeks.

Such measures are necessary to prevent violence in communities that often refuse to talk to police, Alvarez told reporters.

However, Ward’s attorney suggested after Tuesday’s hearing that his client is a casualty of intense pressure to close the case, according to NPR.

“The problem when criminal cases get made into political cases … rules are bent and mistakes are made,” he said. Ward, he said, asked repeatedly for 48 hours to speak to an attorney but “during that time those requests were ignored by the Chicago Police Department.”

See also:

Chicago Tribune: Jail tip led cops to suspects in Hadiya Pendleton’s slaying

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