Two men convicted in killing of Amari Brown, 7, in 2015

Two men convicted in killing of Amari Brown, 7, in 2015

Two men charged with killing 7-year-old Amari Brown on the the Fourth of July in 2015 were found guilty of murder Thursday in the boy’s slaying, an act of violence that generated national attention and calls to action that year.

The Fourth of July 2015 should have been the usual holiday celebration, prosecutors said earlier Thursday, replete with food, drinks and fireworks.

Instead, they alleged, two men intent on continuing a months-long feud sent volleys of bullets down a street at a rival. They missed him, prosecutors said, but injured a woman and killed Amari.

“This has to stop today, here with you,” Assistant State’s Attorney Emily Stevens told the jury during closing arguments Thursday. Testimony in the case began last week.

Separate juries convicted Jamal Joiner, 29, and Rasheed Martin, 28, of murder and attempted murder in the killing on that particularly violent holiday weekend nearly nine years ago. The boy’s death, on a night he spent watching fireworks with his father, elicited waves of sorrow, especially when followed just months later by the targeted killing of 9-year-old Tyshawn Lee.

They were accused of killing Amari, injuring another woman and trying to kill their true target just before midnight in the 1100 block of North Harding Avenue in the Humboldt Park neighborhood. Each of their defense attorneys pointed the finger at the other defendant.

Both men testified in their own defense. Joiner’s jury began deliberating around 2:15 p.m. and Martin’s, around 6:50 p.m.

Joiner’s attorneys argued that he wasn’t present during the shooting, and was shot weeks earlier, meaning he wouldn’t have physically been able to run away like the shooters did.

“He couldn’t have run as fast … as those guys were running,” his public defender Mark Douglass said. It was impossible for him to do that with those injuries.”

Prosecutors countered that in video of a police interview shortly after the shooting, Joiner appeared healthy. They also contended that Joiner lied when he testified that he wasn’t there and didn’t have any beef with the man prosecutors said was the true target.

“He got up there, looked at you and lied to your face,” Stevens said.

During their closing arguments, Martin’s public defenders attacked the credibility of the state’s witnesses and argued that Martin was afraid of Joiner.

“Rasheed Martin did not set out to hurt anybody on that July 4,” Assistant Public Defender Wendy Steiner said. “I would submit to you that Jamal Joiner did.”

Steiner told the jury that Martin fired one shot out of fear for his life when Joiner went on the attack.

Cook County prosecutors said during opening statements last week that the shooting was the result of a feud that had been heating up for several months until it came to a head just before midnight in the 1100 block of North Harding Avenue in the Humboldt Park neighborhood.

They alleged that Joiner and Martin were aiming for someone else whom they had gotten in previous confrontations with but instead hit Amari and the woman.

Amari’s mother and other family members have attended the trial at the Leighton Criminal Court Building. His mother, Amber Hailey, tearfully testified last week about the last time she talked to her son.

Amari was with his father that night, out for the fireworks.

Hailey testified that she talked to Amari on the phone around 9 p.m. that night, and he told her they were going to the park for fireworks.

“It was the last time I spoke to him,” she said.