By: Brian J. Vickers
Recently Euraina Shaviss talked with Photojournalist Brian Vickers of CCNEWS Media about the very first man she ever fell in love with at the tender age of 15. In the summer of 1997, Shaviss returned to Chicago for a visit with her mother. One day she went into a restaurant on 43rd and State Street to get something to eat. There she met a young man named Jonathan Tolliver-a/k/a “J.T.” After meeting Tolliver the two hit it off right away and began dating. Two months into her new relationship, Shaviss had to return home with her father to Eagan Minnesota. After two weeks in MN she decided to return to Chicago and be with Tolliver again. The young couple became an inseparable pair; they never wanted to be apart. Shaviss and Tolliver spoke to each-other on the telephone all the time.
One day Tollvier took Shaviss home to meet his mother, the late-Shewanda Tolliver, and his sister Tekkisha Toliver. Shaviss introduced Tolliver to her family; her father really liked Tolliver. Shaviss remembers Tolliver as a young man who “dressed fly and was always a gentleman”. Tolliver had no problem with meeting the “monetary needs” of his girlfriend. For example, Tolliver would get treat Shaviss to a hair-do, take her out to dinner, to the movies and he would pay for everything. Christmas of 1997 was very special for Shaviss and Tolliver. It was their first and last Christmas they would spend together as a couple. After the holiday season was over Shaviss had to return home with her father.
In April of 1998, Shaviss found out that she was pregnant with her first child; after discovering she was pregnant, Shaviss decided to get an abortion. Her family in Chicago even raised money for the procedure and mailed the money to her but Shaviss’s father convinced her not to go thought with the abortion. On August 15, 1998, the lives of Jonathan Tolliver, George Alexander, Willie Hunter, and Robert Brandt, changed forever. At approximately 3:30 am, Chicago Police Officer Michael Ceriale was shot in the ‘coal-mine’ (this is an area know to those familiar with Chicago’s Robert Taylor housing complex) across from 4101 S. Federal while conducting a drug surveillance with his partner, Joe Ferenzi.
Tolliver and Alexander were coming from a party at 4410 S. State, when they heard something had happened. Tolliver, Alexander, and the rest of their friends ran to the corner of State and Root Street; when Tolliver arrived at the corner of Root and State Street, he was instantly thrown to the ground, and placed under arrest. Tolliver fit the description that was given by Ceriale before he lost consciousness; seconds later Tolliver was identified by Joe Ferenzi, as the alleged shooter.
After Tolliver was arrested, Shaviss reached out to find legal representation for him. She met the late infamous lawyer-Johnny Cochran through a friend of hers and he agreed to represent Tolliver after hearing what happened. Cochran also agreed to underwrite his legal expenses. But Tolliver’s mother said “no” because she retained two other Attorneys, Mellissa Brown and Richard Steinken from Jenner & Block.
While Tolliver was in Cook County lock-up, awaiting trial, Shaviss gave birth Tolliver’s second child; and she named their son Gianaurre Shaviss. While Tolliver was awaiting trial, Shaviss visited him, wrote him letters and sent him pictures of their son. On February 8, 2001, after 10 days of jury deliberations, the murder trial of Jonathan Tolliver ended in a hung jury; because juror Sam Shipp refused to vote and side with the other 11 jury members to convict Tolliver. Ship said “the prosecution didn’t convince me Tolliver killed Ceriale.” Shipp also said “if I would have seen any evidence linking Tolliver to the murder, I would have voted him guilty.” Shaviss has a great deal of respect and appreciation for Shipp, because he did the right thing. On May 23, 2001, after only five-and-a-half-hours of jury deliberation, the re-trial of accused cop-killer, Jonathan Tolliver, ended with a guilty verdict. In contrast to Tolliver’s first trial, juror Edward Shealy “didn’t have the gumption to vote to acquit Tolliver of the Ceriale murder;” even if he would have been the one to “hang the jury.”
Over the past 17 years Juror Shealy has expressed his regret for voting to convict Tolliver, because Shealy truly believes, just as he believed during the retrial, that Tolliver did not kill Officer Michael Ceriale. Despite Shealy regrets, Euraina Shaviss is totally willing to forgive Juror Shealy even though “he knew Tolliver was innocent, and he still voted him guilty.” She also states, “Shealy’s lack of courage helped take an innocent man away from his children.” Shaviss also said, Jonathan has missed out on precious moments with his children from infancy, through the teen-years, and not into adult hood. Precious memories Jonathan has missed with his children are lost forever; you can’t get those memories back.”
Looking back on it all, Shaviss believes if she had not gone back home to Minnesota, Tolliver would not have been at the party the night of the Ceriale shooting; and in all likelihood, he would not be serving a 60 year sentence for a murder he did not commit.
Furthermore, if she and Tolliver would have stayed together, she believes they would have gotten married and had more children together. She also believes Tolliver would have been a good father figure and provider to all his children. Euraina Shavis knows she was the best girlfriend Jonathan (J. T.) Tolliver had out of all those he dated. Replies to this article can be sent to: firstname.lastname@example.org