Case Conclusion Date: May 10, 2013
RACINE — Jurors spent just under four hours deliberating on Friday before acquitting a Racine man in the 2007 drive-by shooting that claimed the life of a 12-year-old boy.
Tarence A. Banks, 32, appeared confident and upbeat even before the verdict was read, but he was almost beaming when the jury announced their decision — not guilty on all charges.
His wife Tomicca Banks and their five-year-old daughter Ta’Nyah Banks didn’t make it to hear the verdict read, but Tomicca Banks saw her husband turn back and smile afterward.
“Thank you Jesus,” she whispered from her seat.
Banks was accused in the April 22, 2007, gang-related shooting that left Marize Jones dead and injured Marize’s brother and two women. The retaliatory drive-by occurred that night in the 1600 block of Albert Street, and was the third of three purportedly gang-related shootings that day.
During closing arguments Friday, Racine County Assistant District Attorney Jacalyn LaBre walked slowly past the jury box, holding a photograph of Marize for jurors to see. She told them he was caught in the gunfire, not the intended target.
He was “a 12-year-old boy,” she told them, now “waiting for justice.”
Banks was alleged to be one of the three shooters who fired into the crowd gathered outside that night. Prosecutors said the fatal .38-caliber bullet was fired from Banks’ gun.
It hit Marize in the chest, causing internal bleeding before his death, LaBre said.
Four others also were charged in connection with Marize’s slaying. Of those, Jimmie Green, Dartavis Shelton and Alan M. Johnson have been convicted for their roles in the drive-by.
Codefendant LaQuinten D. Wilson, 27, is due back in court Thursday.
Defense attorney Paul F.X. Schwartz told jurors that prosecutors “are looking at the case through tunnel vision.”
He accused Racine police of botching the homicide investigation and failing to investigate the then-lead detective on the case — William Warmington, who now works as an Ormond Beach, Fla., police officer. Schwartz repeatedly told jurors Friday, and during the trial this week, that Warmington and his then-wife had a white van.
Witnesses have reported seeing shots being fired from a white van and white sedan, or that white sedan and a gray Cougar.
Warmington, whom Schwartz said was placed on administrative leave, suspended and then demoted to patrol officer, never told Racine and Kenosha police investigators who had their white van that night, he said.
“(Warmington) testified for the first time ever, ever, that he drove his white van to work that night,” Schwartz said, but didn’t know if anyone had it while he was asleep during the time of the drive-by.
“You’ve heard a lot about ‘white vans.’ There’s no evidence that van was involved (in the drive-by),” LaBre said. “It came from the opposite direction following cars down the road,” she said, pointing to video footage of traffic around the area of North Memorial Drive and Albert Street that night.
During closing arguments Friday, Schwartz also accused prosecutors of trying to convict Banks based on circumstantial evidence.On that video “you see the two sedans and brake lights as the shots are fired, then the white van,” LaBre said. “It’s a diversion van, not a conversion van. …Don’t be diverted by that white van.”
Schwartz attacked the credibility of four prosecution witnesses — who testified that they either saw Banks firing that night because they were the other shooters — or that Banks later told them he opened fire.
He said no physical evidence “established that Tarence Banks was at the scene of the homicide.”
Schwartz said one prosecution witness, Johnson — who was one of the three drive-by shooters — wrote a letter to one of Banks’ former defense attorneys “saying Mr. Banks was not involved in this homicide. This guy — this guy committed two homicides (one in addition to Marize’s). Two people are dead because of him.”
Schwartz is Banks’ sixth defense attorney, court records show.
“Let’s not compound all of these tragedies by convicting a man …(without evidence) … only (with) the paid stories of liars, felons, perjurers and murderers,” Schwartz told jurors.
Banks was charged in May 2009 with being a party to the crimes of first-degree intentional homicide, three counts of attempted first-degree intentional homicide and discharging a firearm from a vehicle. He also was charged with possession of a firearm by a felon, according to his criminal complaint.
None of Marize’s family members attended Banks’ trial this week. The family reportedly moved to Racine from Minnesota after one of Marize’s siblings was killed. And Marize’s brother, Lemario, who was wounded in this same drive-by, is behind bars. Marize’s mother, who had health problems, is dead.
Cara Spoto contributed to this report.