UPDATE (12:43 p.m., June 15, 2023):
RACINE — The teen accused in a 2021 homicide was acquitted on all charges Friday in Racine County Circuit Court.
Sincere Granados, 16, was found not guilty of first-degree intentional homicide in the shooting death of Jayden Cronin, 17, on Sept. 3, 2021.
The jury returned with the verdict shortly before noon.
It was a hectic morning as deputies in the Law Enforcement Building tried to keep the friends and family of the victim and the friends and family of the defendant separated.
However, after the verdict, violence erupted around the courthouse. Streets around the Law Enforcement Building had to be closed while law enforcement attempted to clear the area and restore order.
Sheriff Christopher Schmaling said deputies made multiple arrests.
There will be more information as it becomes available.
ORIGINAL STORY (11:30 a.m., June 16, 2023):
RACINE — The homicide trial underway in Racine County Circuit Court has put the spotlight on the challenges of getting justice for the victims of crimes who are connected to gangs.
“We have no Boy Scouts testifying here,” Antoinette Rich, assistant district attorney, told the jury shortly before they began deliberations late Thursday afternoon.
One of the challenges in the case was the credibility of witnesses, who were sometimes gang members themselves, who came with a long list of previous criminal convictions.
In this case, the state’s two primary witnesses have 20 convictions between them.
However, the prosecution was not in a position to be particular. As happens in gang-related crime, not all of the witnesses were cooperative. One of the witnesses to the homicide made no statements to police and did not testify. A second witness ran from the scene, did not come forward afterward, and has not been identified.
At issue is the possible retaliation for cooperating with law enforcement. One of the witnesses in the case told the jury she had her house shot up. Both of the state’s primary witnesses have moved away for their own safety.
Granados on trial
Sincere Granados, the defendant, was just 14 years old at the time he was arrested for the shooting death of Jayden Cronin, 17, who was a senior at Racine Unified’s Turning Point Academy.
Now 16 years old, he is on trial for first-degree intentional homicide.
There is no known motive, but investigators theorize the shooting was gang-related. Cronin was a member of a Southside gang, the Dirty P’s, walking through a Northside neighborhood that is considered the territory of the NFL (Northside For Life).
Video evidence showed Cronin and a second person walking on Woodrow Avenue toward North Memorial Drive where Granados was sitting in a friend’s vehicle – a distinctive 2003 white Cadillac – waiting for someone to get in the car so they could leave.
The meeting between the two groups appeared to be totally random.
Cronin and the second person appeared to see something – possibly the white Caddy – and they tried to back away from the intersection. Security video from the neighborhood shows Cronin turn back. He appeared ready to start running when he suddenly disappeared from view.
Investigators believe that is the moment Cronin fell with a gunshot wound to the back of the head.
When he was found by investigators, his hand was in his hoodie pocket on a gun, but it did not appear from the video footage that he took it out or used it.
The person he was walking with fled and has not come forward.
There is no doubt the gunshot that killed Cronin was fired from inside the 2003 Cadillac. When investigators from the Racine Police Department recovered the Caddy the day after the homicide, there were six gunshot holes in the windshield – indicating a person fired from inside the vehicle.
Footage from area security cameras shows three people in the car and one person outside of the car in the moments before the shooting.
The person outside of the car did not cooperate with the investigation, made no statements to law enforcement, and did not testify at trial.
The owner of the vehicle, Christopher Pegues, 21, and the backseat occupant, Billy Summers Jr., 22, both testified on Thursday.
Pegues told the jury he parked on North Memorial Drive while the front seat occupant ran into his house to drop something off to his mom.
Both Pegues and Summers claimed they were looking at their phones and did not notice the two men on Woodrow Avenue.
Pegues told the jury it was quiet in the car, and he was startled when the shooting started close to his head which left a ringing in his ear. He said he glanced back and saw Granados with the gun.
The gun was never recovered but was identified as a 9 mm.
Summers was in the backseat with Granados when the shooting started.
He told the jury he heard someone say, “Hey, look” but was not sure who it was.
Summers had an injury on his finger he claimed was the graze of the bullet that occurred during the shooting.
Video footage showed all three occupants fleeing the car immediately after the shooting. The fourth occupant, who was about to get back into the car, ducked then fled back to his house followed by Summers.
Pegues said he ran after Granados, who appeared to be jumping a fence to get back to his own house, which was nearby.
Pegues said he asked Granados “why he was shooting in my car” but got no response.
Video footage showed Pegues run back to his car, jump in, and drive away with the doors still open. He said he went to his mother’s house.
The next day, he went to the Racine Police Department, made a statement, and told investigators where they could find the Caddy.
From the stand, Pegues said he knew Granados had a gun. Pegues claimed he was not armed.
No one here is a Boy Scout
Investigators are fairly certain Pegues – who was behind the wheel – was not the shooter due to the location of the bullet holes in the windshield, which narrows the suspect list to the two people sitting in the backseat: Summers and Granados.
Although Summers initially made a statement to investigators four days after the shooting, up until the week of the trial, he was disinclined to cooperate any further.
In exchange for his cooperation at trial, the Racine County DA’s Office made a deal that dismissed all pending charges against him, got the Department of Corrections to remove a parole hold, and paid for transportation for Summers and a relative to leave town after his testimony.
Noah Wishau, who represented the defendant, used this deal to call into question the witness’s motivations for testifying.
“All told, 44 years of prison are going away today because you’re here?” he asked.
Summers responded, “Yep.”
The attorney noted the witness was in custody in the morning and was out of custody in time to testify.
“You’re walking out today?” Wishau followed-up.
“Yep,” Summers agreed.
In response, Antoinette Rich, assistant district attorney, asked the defendant to repeat what she told him to do on the stand.
“Tell the truth,” he responded.
She told the jury during closing statements those kinds of deals are sometimes necessary to get people to testify who are not inclined to cooperate with law enforcement.
“Billy Summers has a lot of convictions,” she said. According to testimony, he had 17 previous convictions.
“He’s not a Boy Scout. We have no Boy Scouts testifying here, but that doesn’t make him the shooter,” she said.
Pegues did not get a deal, per se, but is hoping for favorable consideration for some charges he is facing.
However, he will not get his car back, which is now in the custody of the state because it is considered evidence in a murder trial.
Inconsistent statements to investigators
Wishau made much of the fact that statements made by the two witnesses changed over time.
Pegues repeatedly told investigators Granados was shooting from outside of the car, on the sidewalk, and only changed his story when confronted with the video, according to Wishau.
Pegues said from the stand he did not remember telling police that Granados was on the sidewalk.
Summers did not initially cooperate, the attorney pointed out. The night of the shooting he stayed inside the home of the fourth occupant of the car – with a full homicide investigation going on outside – and did not approach investigators with what he knew.
He said from the stand he did not want to snitch on anyone. It would be four more days before Summers made a statement. When he finally made his statement, he initially told investigators he was not sure where the shots came from.
Wishau also noted Pegues was the only person with a motive in the shooting as he and Cronin had a physical altercation at school the day before.
Pegues denied there was an ongoing problem between the two. He said there was a fight, but “no bad blood” between the two of them.
The jury received the case for deliberations late Thursday afternoon. They resumed deliberations Friday morning.
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