The jury’s verdicts cap a sprawling, three-month murder and gang conspiracy trial in D.C. Superior Court that began in February. Prosecutors said the shooting was the result of a “beef” between rival neighborhood gangs.
Quentin Michals, 25, Isaiah Murchison, 23, Gregory Taylor, 27, Darrise Jeffers, 23, and Qujuan Thomas, 24, were all convicted of murder and conspiracy in connection with Wilson’s killing.
The sixth defendant, Marquell Cobbs, 21, was convicted of conspiracy charges but acquitted of murder.
Wilson was fatally struck by gunfire when four masked gunmen jumped out of a stolen car in front of an apartment courtyard in Northeast D.C.’s Clay Terrace neighborhood and began spraying the courtyard with bullets on July 16, 2018.
Prosecutors said 50 shots were fired in matter of 20 seconds. Assistant U.S. Attorney Laura Bach said one of the bullets “eviscerated” the girl’s heart. Four other people — including Wilson’s older sister Nyjhay Lewis — were wounded in the shooting.
Grandmother: ‘They got what they deserve’
Outside the courthouse Tuesday, Makiyah’s grandmother, Pandora Wilson, said she was “thankful” for the jury’s verdict.
“I’m just glad that they got what they deserve,” she told WTOP, adding, “They didn’t care about whether anybody else lived or died. It was all about what they wanted.”
During the trial, older sister Lewis testified about the carefree summer day the two sisters spent the day of the shooting: going to the pool and with their god-sister, playing the video game Fortnite and going to a neighborhood ice cream truck for a pickled egg with sunflower seeds — a popular summer snack. When they were sitting on their front steps after returning home, a car pulled up and the barrage of gunshots began.
The two sisters tumbled inside in a bloody heap.
Pandora Wilson likened the gun violence to “living in a war zone,” adding, “You’re not safe in your bed, in your home, in your car, walking down the street.”
Asked if the verdict Tuesday felt like justice, she replied, “A tidbit, you know, because it’s not going to bring her back. But … I’ll take what I can get.”
The evidence at trial
Prosecutors said the defendants were affiliated with the Wellington Park neighborhood and were targeting the Clay Terrace neighborhood amid a dispute that started on social media.
Much of the evidence introduced during the trial revolved around social media activity by the defendants on Instagram that prosecutors said indicated their involvement in the gang conspiracy.
“It has been five years … it is time now that each of them owns up and reaches Judgement Day for what they’ve done,” Bach told jurors during closing arguments late last month. “It’s time to hold them accountable for nonsense on the internet rising to this level of violence.”
Defense attorneys argued the evidence was largely circumstantial and pointed to the lack of DNA evidence.
Speaking to reporters outside the courthouse after the verdict was delivered, U.S. Attorney for D.C. Matthew Graves praised police and prosecutors who, he said, “painstakingly put together the digital and social media evidence that was the core of today’s prosecution.”
He added, “We have the ability through 21st century investigative tactics to put together social media, to put together video evidence — which is more and more prevalent — and to tell a compelling story that will convince a jury beyond a reasonable doubt.”
Interim D.C. Police Chief Ashan Benedict offered his condolences to the Wilson family and noted police are now searching for suspects in the stray-bullet killing of another 10-year-old D.C. girl — Arianna Davis, who was fatally struck in the back seat of a car on Mother’s Day.
“We would like to bring that case to closure,” he said. “And the people who did that, just know: We’re coming for you. You know who you are.”
The verdict came after several days of deliberation spread out over the past three weeks. The jury began deliberations on May 24.
The men will be sentenced this fall.
Murchison and Cobbs are set to be sentenced Oct. 6, and the four others will be sentenced on Oct. 20.
In all, a total of eleven 11 people were arrested following the July 2018 shooting. In addition to the six convicted Tuesday, two additional defendants will be tried separately this year.
Two other defendants were tried last year in connection with a separate gang-related killing and were convicted. A final defendant, who was charged with obstructing justice in connection with Wilson’s killing, is also set to be tried separately.
WTOP’s Shayna Estulin and Mike Murillo contributed to this report.