D.C. man acquitted in slaying of Tanganika Stanton, 18, shot over a hamburger

Stanton (Courtesy Of District's U.s Attorney's Office - Courtesy Of District's U.s Attorney's Office)
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By Keith L. Alexander
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, April 14, 2010

A D.C. Superior Court jury acquitted a District man Tuesday in the fatal shooting of an 18-year-old woman in 2008 after she allegedly spurned his advances and his request for her to make him a hamburger.

The jury found Terrence J. Jones, 20, not guilty in the death of Tanganika Stanton, who was shot while she was sitting outside her apartment building in the 4900 block of Grant Street NE eating a burger. According to court documents, Stanton told Jones that her mother had cooked the burger for her. Jones said he also wanted one and asked both women to make it for him. The mother and daughter refused.

Jones is then alleged to have left, returned with a gun and shot at the women in what one witness described in an affidavit as a "large volley of gunfire." Stanton's mother was shot in the foot. Another bullet pierced Stanton's heart. Stanton, an art lover who had just enrolled at the University of the District of Columbia and hoped to open her own gallery, died of her wounds.

Jones's attorneys, Elizabeth Mullins and Kia Sears of the District's Public Defender Service, argued that police arrested the wrong man.

Jones, who was 19 at the time, was initially charged with second-degree murder. But after further investigation, prosecutors charged him with first-degree murder and several gun-related felonies. The jury acquitted Jones on all seven charges.

Witness testimony was key to the acquittal. One witness said the shooter's hair was dreadlocked; Jones has never worn his hair that way. At one time, however, Jones did wear his hair in short twists, a style that many observers generically refer to as dreadlocks.

Another key witness was a boy who was riding his bicycle after school when the shooting occurred. Last week, the boy, now 10, took the witness stand and, in a low but strong voice, told the jury, as he had told police, that he saw Jones shoot at the women through the front gate to the apartment building.

But the boy's testimony seemed to unravel under cross-examination when Mullins repeatedly pressed him for details of the shooting. At one point, he told Mullins that he did not see the shooting and only heard the gunshots.

At the time of the shooting, the animal rights group PETA cited the tragedy in a campaign against meat.

Two rows of Stanton's family members sat quietly in the courtroom as the verdict was read after almost a day of deliberations. Outside the courtroom, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer Kerkhoff and several of Stanton's relatives wept and hugged.

After the verdict, Stanton's aunt, Jackie Jackson, wondered why neither Jones nor his attorneys ever offered an alibi about his whereabouts at the time of the shooting. "He did it. If he didn't do it, then there's another killer out there, but he did it," Jackson said.

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