KANKAKEE — A judge found Javan Thompson not guilty of the April 2012 shooting death of Jerome Lucius on Friday.
Lucious was the driver of a car with four other passengers inside that drove by the house of Thompson’s parents on North Taylor Avenue near East Oak Street. Lucious was struck in the left side of his head.
Judge Clark Erickson announced his decision after going over the transcripts of the second trial and testimony of a new witness, who came forward after a jury found the 30-year-old Thompson guilty in that trial in March 2018.
After two jury trials, Thompson’s attorneys, Brandon McRoyal and Brittany Kimble, decided on a bench trial, where the judge listens to testimony and decides if the defendant is guilty or not.
On Sept. 13, attorneys on both sides agreed to let Erickson look over the transcripts and other material.
Thompson was released from the county jail later Friday. His parents were in the courtroom when the decision was announced.
“I didn’t think I’d get a chance to say this, but justice prevailed,” said McRoyal, who tried all three cases. Kimble represented Thompson in the last two trials.
New trial motion
McRoyal and Kimble filed a motion for a new trial in May 2018, two months after Thompson was convicted.
In the motion, McRoyal argued Thompson did not receive a fair trial “due to every juror indicating they were aware of potential safety concerns.”
McRoyal argued four jurors should be removed, but Erickson only dismissed one. If all four had been removed, there would have been just 11 jurors, forcing a mistrial.
The motion argued allowing the medical examiner’s report being read by the jurors rather than live testimony did not allow for cross examination. It was the only exhibit the jury wanted to see during its deliberations, which lasted 80 minutes.
In March 2017, a mistrial was declared by Erickson in the first trial. Jurors could not come to a unanimous vote whether he was guilty or not.
On Friday, Thompson had two other cases dismissed by the state’s attorney’s office. He did agree to plead guilty to a 2011 resisting a peace officer arrest. He was released for time already served. He had been arrested on the murder charge in June 2015 with a $1 million bond.
“We brought the case to trial three times in an attempt to seek justice for the victim, it was everything we could do,” State’s Attorney Jim Rowe told the Daily Journal.
“In the end, the judge disagreed with the jury’s guilty verdict, overturned it, and now entered a verdict of not guilty. This is a very rare occurrence, but at the end of the day we believe in the criminal justice system and this too is a part of it. Our prayers remain with the victim’s family.”