The Hadiya Pendleton Murder Case's First Verdict Is Out, 5 Years After She Was Shot
It was a case that drew national attention and changed the gun control movement forever. In 2013, a 15-year-old honors student was shot in a Chicago park, seemingly because she was in the "wrong place at the wrong time," as police said, per The Guardian. Five years later, a man has been found guilty in Hadiya Pendleton's murder trial.
A jury in Chicago found Kenneth Williams guilty of first-degree murder as well as two counts of aggravated battery on Wednesday, Aug. 22, according to CNN. The prosecution claimed that he drove the getaway car at the time of Pendleton's murder; a simultaneous but separate trial is going on for Michaeil Ward, who is accused of wielding the gun. Closing arguments for Ward will be held on Thursday.
Pendleton was murdered in 2013 while she was hanging out with friends in a park. Prosecutors argued that the group was targeted because it had been mistaken for a gang faction. Her death outraged people around the country, in part because of its tragic irony (according to CNN, Pendleton told her friends to stay away from gangs), and in part because of its relation to President Barack Obama. The park in which Pendleton was shot is just a mile from the former president's Chicago house, and shortly before her death, she took part in a music performance at his second inauguration in Washington D.C. Michelle Obama attended her funeral.
At the time, The Guardian wrote that Pendleton became "a symbol of the city's stubbornly high murder rate." According to Quartz, students at her school commemorated her death by wearing orange, the color that hunters wear to avoid getting shot in the woods, which has now become the official color of the gun control movement.
Now, people across the country wear the color on National Gun Violence Awareness Day in June and the weekend surrounding it, which activists have labeled "Wear Orange Weekend." In a press release for its 2017 events, the organization We Are Orange wrote that orange is "a color that reflects the value of human life" because it's used by hunters to protect themselves and others. On its website, the group writes that "the color orange honors the more than 90 lives cut short and the hundreds more wounded by gun violence everyday."
Gun control activists have been wearing orange at protests and school walkouts in the wake of the February school shooting in Parkland, Florida, and many celebrities wore orange pins at this year's Academy Awards.
Pendleton's death occurred during the most violent January that Chicago had seen in over 10 years, according to CBS. It also happened about a month after the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
Along with these events, her murder helped spark a wave of national conversations about how to prevent shootings. President Obama said at the time that Chicago's strict gun laws weren't effectively curbing the violence because "a huge proportion of those guns come in from outside Chicago." He argued that a unified system of background checks was necessary rather than a system made up of a "bunch of pockets of gun laws."
These conversations have resurfaced nationally after Parkland. States created 50 new gun control laws this year, according to HuffPost, and the issue is expected to play a significant role in the upcoming midterm elections.