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A Mistake That Can’t Be Recanted

 BY: Brian Vickers

Replies to this article can be sent to: photojournalistbrian@gmail.com

Brain photoOn May 23, 2001, during Jonathan Tolliver’s re-trial, retired law clerk, and former Rogers Park resident, Mr. Edward Shealy, along with the 11 other jury members, voted to convict Jonathan Tolliver of killing Chicago Police Officer Michael Ceriale. However, Shealy has no recollection of what made him vote Tolliver guilty of the Ceriale slaying.

          Something that caused Shealy some concern was the inconsistent testimony of the defense witnesses. “The defense witnesses placed Tolliver at too many places, at too many different times;” none of the defense witnesses seemed to have the same story. From what Shealy was able to recollect, “none of the evidence presented by Tolliver’s defense lawyers proved where Tolliver was at the time of the shooting.”

                 During the re-trial Shealy looked at Tolliver several times, and in his perception “Tolliver didn’t look like someone that would be involved in gang-behavior.” Where Tolliver allegedly fired the fatal shot from (the corner of Root Street), into some bushes, also known as the “Coal Mine;” and to be able to hit Officer Ceriale under his bullet proof vest, to Shealy, “seemed crazy.”  

                Shealy also took notes during the re-trial, and he believes he wrote in his notes, “I’m on the verge of, Tolliver did not shoot this man (Officer Ceriale).” Shealy did not believe the prosecution’s case against Tolliver was strong enough to warrant a guilty verdict; the prosecution did not present enough physical evidence to convince Shealy that Tolliver shot Officer Ceriale. Furthermore, Shealy didn’t remember if the prosecution said the Police checked the murder weapon for any fingerprints, or if Tolliver’s fingerprints were found on the gun.

                After listening to all of the evidence presented by both sides, as well as listening to impassioned closing arguments, by both the defense (Tolliver’s attorneys) as well as the prosecution, Shealy and the other members of the jury were left with the task of deciding the fate of Jonathan Tolliver.  Shealy remembers after a short time of deliberating, most of the jury members, which were mostly white, were ready to convict Tolliver. Being in that jury room with all those other jury members, looking through his notes, going through all of the testimony, really took a toll on Shealy; he had thoughts went through his mind “he wondered how long they were going to be in the deliberation room?” Although he knew in his heart voting to convict Tolliver would be wrong, Shealy began to get frustrated with trying to convince the other jury members to acquit Tolliver; therefore, Shealy ultimately changed his vote from acquit, to convict. Shealy’s changed his vote because he “lost his character build,” and he was “tired of being in the jury room, with those jurors, and going over the re-trial, repeatedly.”    

        It’s been more than 12 years since Jonathan Tolliver has been convicted and sent to prison; but looking back on it all, Shealy admits convicting Tolliver for Ceriale’s murder was a mistake that he can’t recant. Shealy wishes he would have stood his ground, like the brave juryman did in the first Tolliver trial. Since the Tolliver re-trial Shealy has developed a stronger center-core-of-character. Shealy now works with other prison inmates, in an effort to help those who are incarcerated turn their lives around.