The man convicted of killing 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton has been granted a new trial after an Illinois Appellate Court ruled the detectives who interrogated him violated his right to remain silent.
The First District Appellate Court issued a 38-page ruling Friday, ordering that 28-year-old Micheail Ward — who was convicted of first-degree murder in 2018 — will be given a new trial after statements he made to investigators after he invoked his right to remain silent were used in court.
“We conclude, for the following reasons, that the evidence was sufficient to support Mr. Ward’s convictions,” the court wrote. “We also find that the trial court should have suppressed Mr. Ward’s inculpatory statements to detectives because he clearly and unequivocally invoked his right to remain silent, that invocation was not scrupulously honored, and the error was not harmless.”
Pendleton, 15, was shot in the back and killed on Jan. 29, 2013, while hanging out with friends at a North Kenwood neighborhood park on the South Side. At the time of the shooting, she and her friends were standing under a canopy, taking cover from the rain.
The homicide occurred just a week after Pendleton, a King College Prep student, performed at the second inauguration of President Barack Obama in Washington, D.C. She has since become a symbol for gun violence in Chicago. The “Wear Orange” movement, which was based on Pendleton’s favorite color, was started in her memory to raise awareness about gun violence.
Her mother, Cleopatra Cowley-Pendleton, founded Hadiya’s Promise – a nonprofit organization dedicated to ending gun violence through education.
“We all have to step up with the roles we play as it relates to young people and our responsibility within their lives… What we cannot do is act like the issues that are happening are not an issue for every household,” Cowley-Pendleton told WTTW News in September 2022. “It’s not just unique to Black and Brown communities, and if it is displayed in our communities right now, it’s not long before it’s displayed in your community.”
It took Ward’s jury just over three hours to find him guilty of murder and two counts of aggravated battery and he was later sentenced to 84 years in prison. A second man, Kenneth Williams, was also convicted of murder for acting as a getaway driver. He was sentenced to 42 years in prison.
After being held for approximately 12 hours, Ward admitted to police that he had shot Pendleton.
But according to the appellate court decision, while Ward was being interrogated days after the shooting, he invoked his right to remain silent three separate times, indicating “that he was done talking” before the detectives left the interrogation room.
But when detectives returned to continue their questioning, Ward was never given a fresh set of Miranda warnings, according to the court.
“The statements Mr. Ward made after he invoked his right to remain silent are therefore inadmissible,” the court wrote, “and the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress them.”
At Ward’s sentencing hearing, Cook County Assistant State's Attorney Brian Holmes called him “a sociopath” and added that Ward “is the face of senseless gun violence in Chicago.”
Ward remains incarcerated at the Pontiac Correctional Center
Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx’s office on Friday said it is “reviewing the matter to determine next legal steps.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.