Mistrial in High-Rise Death Case

From Associated Press

A judge declared a mistrial Thursday after jurors reported they were deadlocked in the civil trial against the Chicago Housing Authority by the family of a 5-year-old boy who was dropped to his death from a high-rise.

"And so the case is over," Circuit Judge James S. Quinlan Jr. said after the jurors, who deliberated for five days, told him they could not reach a decision.

Two boys, ages 10 and 11, dropped Eric Morse from a 14th-floor window in a high-rise within the Ida B. Wells public housing project on Chicago's South Side.

His mother, Toni Morse, and Derrick Lemon, the victim's 14-year-old brother, sued the housing authority and two of its contractors, Diversified Realty Inc. and Digby's Detectives and Security Agency Inc., saying they failed to ensure building safety.

The lawsuit asked for unspecified monetary damages.

The defendants claimed they did everything possible to make the project safe and that the vacant apartment where Eric was dropped on Oct. 13, 1994, had been boarded up by CHA workers that morning.

Morse family attorney Christopher Millet said after the verdict that there was "a history of neglect in the CHA."

Jesse Rankins, now 17, admitted to dropping Eric and was convicted as a juvenile of killing Eric and served the maximum five years. He is now in a state prison for sexually attacking another inmate while serving time for Eric's death.

The other youth who confessed in the killing, identified publicly only as Tyrone, also was convicted as a juvenile. Now 18, he served the maximum five years, has been released and is finishing high school.

"I was ready to find for the plaintiffs, but there was just not enough evidence to find for them, so I swayed to the defendants," said juror Jon Ganaden, 22. "It was just basically a lack of evidence that these guys were negligent."

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