COOK COUNTY CRIMINAL COURTHOUSE — A Cook County judge on Monday said prosecutors failed to prove that a Chicago police detective was acting recklessly when he fired into a crowd in 2012, killing 22-year-old Rekia Boyd.
Judge Dennis Porter's directed verdict means the legal team for Dante Servin didn't have to put on a defense before Servin was acquitted of all charges. The ruling touched off an angry scene in the courtroom Monday as Boyd's relatives jumped up and shouted at Servin and the judge.
"You want me to be quiet?! This m-----f----- killed my sister!" brother Martinez Sutton yelled through tears. Relatives circled Sutton and held him back as sheriff's deputies moved Boyd's supporters into the hallway and outside.
Porter handed down the verdict Monday afternoon amid heavy security in his courtroom, but not before asking anyone who might become emotional to leave.
"I know this case has generated a lot of emotion ... but this is a court of law, not a court of emotion," Porter said before issuing a long ruling.
Erica Demarest describes the scene inside the courtroom:
Judge Dennis Porter said prosecutors failed to prove Servin acted recklessly. Photo by John J. Kim
Porter said that while he had no doubt Servin shot Boyd, he didn't think prosecutors adequately proved that Servin acted recklessly — one of the requirements for finding someone guilty of manslaughter.
"It is easy to say, 'Of course [Servin] was reckless. He intentionally shot in the direction of a group of people on the sidewalk. That is really dangerous. ... Case closed,'" Porter said. "It is easy to think that way, but it is wrong. It ignores the law on this subject."
Porter pointed to a history of Illinois court rulings that say: When someone intends to fire a gun, points toward his victim and shoots — much like Servin did on March 21, 2012 — that behavior is not reckless.
After Porter handed down his ruling, Servin hugged relatives inside the courtroom. Boyd's family was escorted outside, where several activists had gathered and were shouting through megaphones.
"He gets to go home and see his family and see his kids, and I'll never see my daughter again," Boyd's mother Angela Helton said through tears. "He literally blew her brains out. ... Her brains were laying in the alley."
"I don't like the justice system," she continued. "They could've found him guilty of something! ... He murdered my daughter in cold blood."
Boyd's brother, Martinez Sutton, said he wasn't surprised by the ruling. Photo by Erica Demarest
Though relatives voiced rage Monday, they said they weren't surprised at the ruling.
"When we walked in, we already knew we lost," Sutton said. "I thought that maybe the judge would grow a heart, but just like the Tin Man, he never had one."
"What exactly [does] that tell you? That tells you that anybody with a badge can get away with shooting any one of y'all out here," Sutton said to a growing crowd. "It's not just about color anymore. ... It's people wearing the badge disrespecting [their] badge."
After court, Servin told reporters he felt bad for Boyd's family, but that his family had also suffered since the March 2012 shooting.
"Justice was served today," Servin said. "I've always maintained that an accident occurred with Miss Boyd. ... I think it was a mistake for the state's attorney to charge me. But I also explained to the family, if this is what they needed for closure, to be charged, I hope they got what they're looking for."
Servin, now 46, was off duty when he opened fire at a group of people near Douglas Park on March 21, 2012, striking Antonio Cross in his hand and Boyd in the back of her head. Servin has said he saw Cross pull a gun, but police never recovered a weapon, and Cross testified that he was holding a cellphone.
Servin faced charges of involuntary manslaughter, reckless discharge of a firearm and reckless conduct.
Servin had been charged with involuntary manslaughter, reckless discharge of a firearm and reckless conduct. Photo by John J. Kim.
As he left the Leighton Criminal Court Building on Monday — flanked by relatives and fellow officers who'd come to show support — activists and several of Boyd's relatives chased after him, shouting "Murderer!"
Several activists promised to protest well into the weekend. Chicago Rising staged a protest for 7 p.m. Monday near 15th Street and Albany Avenue. The group asked attendants to bring torches, candles and fireworks.
Servin's bench trial began April 9 with emotional testimony from Boyd's brother and best friend. Prosecutors painted Servin as reckless, arguing he fired over his shoulder at an unarmed group standing behind him.
Servin's defense team, meanwhile, argued that Servin only began shooting after Cross lifted his cellphone and pointed it toward Servin as if it were a gun. According to testimony, Servin told authorities he thought he saw a gun, heard a bang and felt "something" hit the back of his head.
"This happens so much," Sutton said Monday. "You wonder why the community doesn't respect the badge. [It's] because the badge doesn't respect the community."
Contributing: Mauricio Peña
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