A jury yesterday acquitted a North Philadelphia teen of shooting and seriously injuring his friend's younger brother.
Kevin Fletcher, 16, was accused of picking up a gun in his friend's house and accidentally shooting 5-year-old Rafeek Griffin in the leg on Nov. 27, 2007.
As the Common Pleas forewoman announced "not guilty" verdicts on charges of aggravated assault and possession of an instrument of crime, Fletcher's family smiled and wept tears of relief. A big grin swept Fletcher's face.
Defense attorney Natasha Taylor-Smith said afterward: "I never thought Kevin should be held criminally liable. What happened to Rafeek was a really sad situation. We were happy with the verdict."
She said that Rafeek's mother, Charene Stallings, sat yesterday with Fletcher's family in the gallery, and was also happy that Fletcher had been acquitted.
The prosecution had to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Fletcher shot Rafeek and that he had done so in a reckless manner, causing serious injury to the little boy.
Rafeek testified at trial that he had been lying on his mother's bed at home, on Huntingdon Street near Marshall, in the Fairhill section of North Philadelphia, watching TV when Angel Concepcion, another friend of his older brother's, loaded a gun and placed it on the bed.
Rafeek said that shortly afterward, Fletcher picked up the gun and as he was about to put it down on the bed, he shot him in the leg.
Taylor-Smith contended in her closing argument Friday that if Fletcher shot Rafeek, he may not have known that the gun was loaded. She also suggested that Concepcion may have shot Rafeek.
Assistant District Attorney Namratha Ravikant told jurors in her closing that Rafeek has consistently said that Fletcher shot him and that Fletcher had been in the room when Concepcion loaded the gun.
After yesterday's verdict in Judge Rosalyn Robinson's courtroom, Ravikant said: "We're disappointed, obviously, that the jury was unable to find the defendant guilty. Certainly, we feel that we put forth all the evidence that we could, and it's a tragedy that somebody who . . . shot a 5-year-old isn't considered reckless in the city of Philadelphia."
Fletcher, also of Huntingdon Street near Marshall, remains in custody.