One of the most horrifying murder cases in the city’s recent history, a quadruple killing that claimed the life a two-year-old boy and led to outraged cries for justice ended with a verdict that acquitted one defendant and allowed another to avoid conviction, at least for now.
After six and a half days of deliberation, a Suffolk jury stunned a packed courtroom of relatives who wept, yelled, and cursed as the foreman said that co-defendant Edward Washington was not guilty of all nine charges against him.
One woman, the aunt of the little boy, lunged toward the defense table, screaming, and had to be dragged out of the courtroom by the court officers who had assembled for the verdict.
“Jesus,” another relative exclaimed, while others sobbed quietly. Some were so devastated by the verdict they became physically ill.
“None of the victims got justice,” Ebony Flonory, the child’s aunt, said outside the courthouse. The defendants “are free. They can breathe ... My nephew was only two. He never made it to kindergarten.”
On Thursday, the jurors said they remained deadlocked on nine charges against Dwayne Moore, 34, who was accused of acting as the triggerman. He was acquitted of one charge – cocaine trafficking. But the jury was deadlocked 11 to 1 on the nine other charges against him, including the murders of 21-year-old Simba Martin, his girlfriend, Flonory, her two-year-old son Amanihotep Smith, and Martin’s friend, Levaughn Washum-Garrison. A fifth victim, Marcus Hurd, was shot in the head, but survived. He is now paralyzed from the shoulders down.
A juror who asked not to be named suggested the majority of the jury wanted to convict Moore of the murder charges.
“The jury had a hard time getting everyone to agree on the testimony and I would have liked to see him do time,” the juror said. “It made me feel sad that I wasn’t able to vote the way I wanted to and see justice for the families. I feel like justice wasn’t served.”
The decision reverberated throughout the city. Police officers descended on Woolson Street, the scene of the shootings, to watch for any tension that might erupt in the Mattapan neighborhood. City health workers prepared to fan out around the neighborhood to offer counseling services to those traumatized by the verdict. Mayor Thomas M. Menino called the outcome “tragic” and urged those outraged by the verdict to remain calm.
“I encourage all those who are grieving to seek the guidance of trusted friends or spiritual advisors and not act on raw emotion during this difficult time,” Menino said. “Our city needs to heal. We need to be good to one another and take care of our neighbors to stop the cycle of violence and prevent another tragedy like this heinous one that occurred in 2010.”
Minutes after the verdict, a furious Delorise Flonory, the grandmother and adoptive mother of Eyanna Flonory, strode to the Statehouse nearby, hoping to voice her outrage to Governor Deval Patrick.
Patrick was not there. Instead they met with his chief of staff, Mo Cowan, who said he could give them little recourse except a promise that the governor would contact them.
Late Thursday afternoon, Patrick, spoke to reporters on Boston Common and called the verdict “unbelievable.”
“I can’t imagine what the family is feeling, having mourned the loss, and then mourning the loss of the verdict,” Patrick said, according to a transcript released by his office. “It’s unimaginable.”
John Cunha, who defended Washington, called on elected leaders not to criticize the decision of the jurors, whom he called “heroes.”
Officials “weren’t there and they didn’t hear the evidence,” Cunha said. “They had citizens who were there for six weeks, six weeks of their lives, conscientiously hearing the evidence.”
Edward Washington, who had been stoic throughout much of the trial, smiled widely after the verdicts were read and hugged Cunha. He is being held at South Bay Correctional Center on a probation violation for a charge Cunha described as “minor.”
Cunha said he could not remember the charge but said his probation was revoked when he was arrested for the shootings. Cunha said he did not know when Washington would be freed. Moore remains held without bail on the remaining charges.
Washintong’s mother, Karen Clyburn, who had come to court every day of the trial, said “it’s a good day for my son.”
But she said she grieved for the relatives of the victims, some of whom she befriended during the trial.
“It’s something that was senseless,” she said of the killings. “As a mother you have to feel for that, if you have any kind of heart.”
The case was always difficult, hinging on the word of a 36-year-old career criminal, Kimani Washington, who has confessed to being an accomplice to the crime. Prosecutors had no physical evidence tying either Moore or Washington to the crime, an armed home invasion for drugs and cash. Edward Washington was described as the getaway driver who obtained the guns for the robbery.
Only Kimani Washington, the cousin of Edward Washington, placed the two other men at the scene, but defense attorneys aggressively attacked him on the stand, picking at inconsistencies in his statements to police and undermining his credibility.
Timothy Burke, a Needham defense attorney and former Suffolk prosecutor, said police and prosecutors had no choice but to rely on Kimani Washington.
“They cannot manufacture evidence that doesn’t exist,” Burke, who used to prosecute homicides, said. “The only way they’re going to obtain a potential conviction is through the use of informants, as despicable as they might be.”
The defense was just as aggressive in their questioning of the lead homicide detective in the case, who acknowledged police did not follow other potential investigative leads.
The evidence against Moore was somewhat stronger. Phone records showed he called Simba Martin just before the shootings, which prosecutors said backed their assertion that Moore called Martin to lure him out of the house.
John Amabile, Moore’s lawyer, said his client intends to prove his innocence.
“His reaction is obviously extreme relief that he was not convicted of something that he didn’t do and he will not be in jail for the rest of his life,” Amabile said.
Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley said prosecutors believed they had “compelling” enough evidence to tie Washington to the killings.
“We are disappointed by this verdict but we always knew that the case against Edward Washington was not as strong as it was against Dwayne Moore,” Conley told reporters outside the courtroom. “With respect to Dwayne Moore, make no mistake … we will hold him accountable for these heinous crimes. We expect that the next jury that sits on this evidence and hears it and understands it as we do will find defendant Dwayne Moore guilty for his terrible crimes.”
Kimani Washington, who accepted a plea deal that would let him avoid murder charges in exchange for his testimony, will likely testify again in the new trial. He is expected to be sentenced on March 27 in the same courtroom that he testified.
For Delorise Flonory, who sat through the entire trial and waited every day in the courthouse for a verdict, the prospect of a new trial was no consolation.
“Why should we keep putting ourselves through this waiting long as we waited to get justice and it didn’t happen,” she said. “I feel just like I was raped.”