Tears flowed down Alicia Wright's face as the jury forewoman yesterday pronounced "not guilty" verdicts on the first of four defendants accused of critically injuring her son, then-6-year-old Jabar Wright, in a shooting nearly two years ago.
Then the forewoman delivered the first "guilty" verdict in the trial, and Alicia Wright raised her hands, palms up, praying to and thanking Allah.
In a quiet courtroom, cleared of most spectators and family members, the jury yesterday found three of the four defendants - Raheem Collins, 26; Chris Powell, 19; and Donte Rollins, 20 - guilty of attempted murder in the Jan. 28, 2006, shooting of Jabar.
Jabar was sitting in the back seat of his grandfather Benjamin Wright's Pontiac Bonneville on Westmont Street near 29th, in Strawberry Mansion, when shots rang out about 7:45 p.m.
Authorities contended the four defendants had conspired to shoot Benjamin Wright because of a prior dispute.
Jabar has been paralyzed from the neck down.
The six-man, six-woman Common Pleas panel acquitted Kevin Norris, 28, of all charges.
After the hearing, an emotional Alicia Wright, 24, told reporters: "My son can't walk. My son can't hug me. [But] he got everything he was supposed to get today. He got justice."
Her father, Benjamin Wright, said: "I feel like God looked over us."
Moments earlier, while court was still in session, prosecutor Deborah Nixon asked that Rollins' bail be revoked.
"Take him into custody!" Nixon told sheriff's deputies.
At that, Rollins, who has maintained that he was not at the shooting scene that night, screamed out: "I didn't do nothing! I didn't do s---, man!"
He was quickly surrounded by sheriff's deputies, with one deputy ordering him:
"Put your hands behind your back and don't move!"
Other than Rollins' outburst, the defendants did not show much emotion when the verdicts were read.
Judge Rayford Means revoked Rollins' bail.
Before the jury was brought out to announce its verdicts, the judge ordered the courtroom gallery cleared except for the victims, police and reporters.
During the two-week trial, tension ran high between the defendants' families and friends and the Wright family.
The judge also said that he cleared the courtroom yesterday because a threat was made against Benjamin Wright.
Moments earlier, authorities took into custody a man in a black leather jacket who allegedly made the threat.
The key witness at the trial was LaRhonda Wright, Benjamin's wife, who was in the front passenger seat of the Pontiac when shots rang out.
She testified that she saw the four men on the corner that night.
Benjamin and LaRhonda's daughter Aneena, then 10, was in the back of the car with Jabar.
The jury reached its verdicts at 1 p.m. on the third day of deliberations.
The panel also found Collins, Powell and Rollins guilty of: conspiracy to kill Benjamin Wright; weapons offenses; aggravated assault in Jabar's case, and three counts of attempted aggravated assault in connection with the other Wright members in the car.
After the verdicts, Nixon praised LaRhonda Wright for having the courage to testify in the case.
She said there were "a lot more people" that night who saw what happened, but were "afraid to speak out."
Defense attorney Nino V. Tinari, who represented Rollins, said he was "extremely disappointed" with the verdict.
"When you have a child that's injured severely," the case becomes "overwhelmed by the emotional arguments," he said.
Tinari said he was confident that Rollins was not at the scene that night, but was in the South Street area.
During the trial, he showed the jury store surveillance videos of a man said to be Rollins at the Net clothing store at the Gallery mall, on Market Street near 8th, at 6:18 that night, and another video showing a man said to be Rollins entering the Net store on South Street near 5th at 8 p.m.
Michael Giampietro, Collins' attorney, also said he was "disappointed."
Robert J. Dixon, Powell's attorney, maintained the state "never proved anything besides [his client] being possibly out there" near the shooting that night.
The three attorneys said they expected to appeal after sentencing - scheduled for April 17.
Leanne Litwin, attorney for Norris, who was acquitted, maintained her client was not at the scene that night.
But, she said, if jurors believed LaRhonda's testimony that he was there, they might have thought he was not involved because he was said to be farther away from the car than the other three men.
The acquittal does not mean Norris is free.
He still must serve the remainder of a federal sentence in a gun case. Last night, Alicia Wright said she wasn't surprised Norris was acquitted.
She said the judge did not allow the jury to hear information about Norris' criminal past during the trial. *