2 Men Found Guilty of Murder in Slaying of 14-Year-Old Witness
Wednesday, November 1, 2006
A man accused of ordering a hit on a 14-year-old witness was convicted of murder yesterday, along with the gunman he hired to kill the girl.
The slaying of Jahkema "Princess" Hansen was as brazen a witness attack as the city had experienced, and the trial, which began in late September, cast an unsettling light on the netherworld that Hansen -- and her killers -- inhabited. Just a seventh-grader, Hansen hung out with people a lot older, and she was out buying drugs with some of them at 3 a.m. when she saw a killing that later would cost her her life.
Franklin Thompson and Marquette Ward were convicted after a trial in D.C. Superior Court that took many strange turns. Last week, the judge removed a juror in the middle of deliberations after she tried to use numbers and colors to decide the case. Earlier, Hansen's mother had to stop attending the trial after the judge rebuked her for following a juror home.
Hansen was shot in January 2004 in the rough-and-tumble Sursum Corda housing complex, off North Capitol Street, where the two defendants were familiar faces. Ward was known as Corleone, for the Mafia family portrayed in the "Godfather" films, and Thompson was known as Frank Nitti, for the feared accomplice to Al Capone.
Yesterday, as the jury foreman answered guilty again and again -- 31 times in all -- Thompson, 24, and Ward, 31, betrayed no emotion as they sat behind their attorneys. Both were convicted of first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit murder, obstruction of justice and other offenses tied to Hansen's death.
Ward also was convicted of killing a drug dealer named Mario J. Evans, 21, just five days before Hansen was slain. It was that act that set in motion the chain of violence that would end in the girl's death, argued the prosecutors, assistant U.S. attorneys Deborah Sines and Michelle Jackson.
Thompson and Ward, who will be sentenced Jan. 19, could spend the rest of their lives in prison. Arrested soon after Hansen's death, they have been jailed since.
"I feel like they got what they deserved," one juror, a 65-year-old federal employee, said afterward. "It was a heinous crime."
The trial was full of horrible images and grim testimony about sex, drugs and violence. But it also had a bit of the bizarre.
A key government witness, despite his residence in a supposedly secure D.C. jail, turned out to have been high on marijuana when he showed up to testify, prompting an unsuccessful defense effort to strike the man's testimony. Judyann Hansen, the victim's mother, drew the judge's attention after she followed a juror home one day after court and introduced herself. Nothing more apparently was said.
And then there was the juror with the interest in numerology. Soon after deliberations began, the woman started talking to her fellow jurors about birth dates and names and colors and the significance of each in predicting the outcome of the case. Talks stalled until the other jurors alerted Judge Wendell P. Gardner Jr., who replaced the juror with an alternate.
But in the end, the trial was about a precocious girl named Princess. The teenager styled herself as a sex object of Sursum Corda, sleeping with older men, according to testimony. At one point, not long before she was killed, she even boasted that her prowess was her ultimate protection. One of the men she was having sex with was Ward, who was 28 at the time.