CHICAGO — A Cook County judge has sentenced the convicted gunman in the Hadiya Pendleton murder to 84 years in prison.
Micheail Ward, now 24, spoke in his own defense Monday at a sentencing hearing at the Leighton Criminal Court Building, 2650 S. California Ave. He maintained his innocence in a rambling speech, occasionally cursing. Ward said there was "no video, no nothing" to link him to the shooting.
"I am upset that I’m the one who’s going down for a murder that I didn’t commit," Ward said.
"I can’t say that I feel remorseful about being in this situation. I can just say that I’m hurt," Ward said, noting that he, too, has experienced deaths in his family.
"I can't be up here crying and hurt ... and saying I'm wronged. I can't do that because I know how it is. I know the situation. I've lived in Chicago a long time in the trenches."
Before announcing his ruling, Judge Nicholas Ford said "an orbit of evidence" linked Ward to the crime.
"What you will have noticed in his remarks is a complete lack of empathy," Ford said. "... He made excuses."
A Cook County jury in August convicted Ward of first-degree murder and aggravated battery following a two-week trial. His maximum sentence could have been life in prison. Prosecutors said Ward was a gang member who opened fire the day Pendleton was killed because he thought he was shooting rival gang members.
Pendleton's family members, including her mother and brother, spoke at Monday's hearing.
Pendleton, 15, was fatally shot in January 2013 while hanging out with friends in a Kenwood park about a mile from former President Barack Obama's Chicago home. Just a few days earlier, Pendleton performed at Obama's second inauguration as a majorette with her school's band.
Ward gave a videotaped confession to the shooting following a 17-hour interrogation. He later recanted, and his defense team said the confession was coerced.
A separate jury last year found getaway driver Kenneth Williams guilty. A sentencing date has not yet been set.