COOK COUNTY CRIMINAL COURTHOUSE — Loved ones of Dione Deshawn Moody, a well-liked member of Chicago's gay community and an aspiring fashion designer, are mourning his death anew this week after a jury found the man charged in his murder not guilty.
Moody, who went by his middle name, Deshawn, was trying to make it as a fashion designer. He worked as a wardrobe stylist between trips as a flight attendant and wrote about fashion and the gay community as a blogger.
"They found his killer, arrested him, and [he] has been locked up ever since. [But jurors] have found him 'not guilty!'" Moody's brother, Kirk Washington-Cook, posted on Facebook soon after the verdict was returned. "This pain feels like the night [he was killed]."
Moody was heading home to his South Shore apartment in the 2000 block of East 68th Street around 5 p.m. on Dec. 19, 2011, with his groceries, prosecutors said. He was almost home when a man asked if he could break a $10 bill.
Moody, 31, set his groceries on the ground and pulled out his wallet, prosecutors said. He saw the gun, realized he was being robbed and tried to run inside his building.
When police found Moody dead a short time later, his keys were in the door to his building and his groceries were gone, prosecutors said.
Cortez Smith, 17 at the time, was arrested and charged with the murder a few weeks later.
A group of Hyde Park Academy High School students in the immediate area at the time witnessed the shooting, prosecutors said.
But none came forward or reported the murder. Police only started making progress in the investigation after one of the teens told a girl at school about the murder, and she reported it.
Over the course of the three-day trial each of the witnesses claimed they were afraid of what Smith might do to them if they snitched. One by one, each admitted that they had no desire to testify against the defendant.
"They weren't going to go to the police," Assistant Cook County State's Attorney Barbara Bailey told the jury. "That girl had more courage than those four boys combined."
The four young men, all around Smith's age, begrudgingly took the stand this week under subpoena and told the jury what brought them to the corner of East 68th Street the night of Dec. 19, 2011.
The group had just purchased Swisher cigars at the gas station and were about to smoke marijuana when they encountered Smith and another man near the entryway of Moody's building, they said.
Moody brushed past them, his arms full of grocery bags, and Smith followed him, witnesses said. They heard someone ask for change for a $10 bill followed by a popping sound, and they scattered.
As one of the teens dashed by the scene, he could see "the man with the bags" lying on the ground, blood spreading toward the street, the witness said. At that moment, another man apparently passing by grabbed Moody's grocery bags and took off.
On the stand, the four witnesses gave varying accounts of events the night of Moody's murder. All of them pointed to Smith as the killer.
But defense attorneys representing Smith argued that the witnesses couldn't be trusted to tell the truth and that their stories didn't add up.
"Reasonable doubt screams from each of these individuals," attorney Terrence Le Fevour said.
In the end, Tuesday night shortly before 10 p.m., jurors found that they could not say beyond reasonable doubt that Cortez was the killer and delivered a not guilty verdict.
"Not guilty ... I'm sick to my stomach," his mother, Veronica Moody, posted on her Facebook page.
"My heart is broken this evening due to the fact that the man arrested in the slaying of one of my oldest friends was set free," Kwanita Aliece posted. "[If] he is in fact the man responsible for taking the life of such an amazing person that lived his life RIGHT then may GOD have mercy on your soul."