Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Murder charges dropped against teens held for 2 years

By Andria Simmons
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
After spending two years in a youth detention center, two 16-year-old boys were freed on bond Monday when Gwinnett County prosecutors dropped murder charges against them.
Prosecutors said further investigation revealed Michael Anthony White and Brandon Ennis were not active participants in a shooting June 11, 2009, outside White's home on Caboose Court in Lawrenceville. The teenagers will still be prosecuted in juvenile court, but their charges will be substantially downgraded.
White and Ennis did not take part in the shooting, but Gwinnett County Assistant District Attorney Mike McDaniel alleged that they did not tell police the truth about what happened.
McDaniel said he is not sure yet what charges they will face, but it won't be murder or manslaughter. The charges will more likely be related to withholding information from police.
"We are still in a state of flux with regard to the juvenile case," McDaniel said.
White and Ennis were 14-year-old students at Richards Middle School in Lawrenceville when they were arrested following a shootout that killed one man and wounded another.
The boys were asleep on a plane at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, having just returned from a trip to California, when they were arrested about a month after the shooting.
Their arrests prompted an outcry from their parents, who said the boys were not guilty but were taken as "hostages" by police in an effort to sort out what happened.
Ennis' mother, Suzette Ennis, declined to discuss the case when reached at home Monday.
"We're just getting home from court and waiting to see if we can go pick our children up," Ennis said.
Defense attorney Stan Sunderland, who represents White, said both boys were released on signature bond Monday afternoon. He said White's incarceration has been devastating for his family. Sunderland said White has kept up with his schoolwork the past few years and is "an excellent high school football prospect."
"He missed two seasons being locked up, and that's devastating to someone that's a gifted athlete," Sunderland said. "He's not happy with what transpired, but I think he is looking forward to the future."
Asked whether his client regrets not cooperating with police, Sunderland said White's behavior stemmed from being raised in a low-income neighborhood where people are wary of police and believe "the only thing worse than being a police officer is being a snitch."
Authorities say a man who had been staying with White's family -- Kevin Henderson, 22, of Oakland, Calif. -- is responsible for firing gunshots into the victims' car. Henderson pleaded guilty Friday to voluntary manslaughter. He was sentenced to 12 years in prison followed by eight years of probation.
Carl Judson, 19, and Demitrius White, 21, were among eight people who drove in two cars to Michael Anthony White's home on Caboose Court to fight someone they knew as "Greg."
The group was angry at "Greg," who allegedly knew White's mother, because they believed he snitched on someone in an unrelated case, Sunderland said.
Authorities believe the group confronted Ennis and Michael Anthony White outside the house. The boys went inside and told Henderson that people outside were threatening to shoot up their home. McDaniel said Henderson then walked outside and fired a gun into the car. Judson was shot in the arm. Demitrius White was killed.

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