Trial begins in 2012 murder of 7-year-old Heaven Sutton

Seven years ago Ashake Banks held her 7-year-old daughter, Heaven Sutton, in her arms as she died from a gunshot wound to the back; a stray bullet fired in a gang dispute.

On Monday, with the frantic shouts of “Mommy! Mommy!” ever present in her mind, Banks sat in the front row of a Chicago courtroom hoping for justice on the first day of the jury trial of Jerrell Dorsey, the man charged in the death of her daughter.

In opening statements, prosecutor Nina Ricci said Dorsey was a member of a street gang who was shooting at a member of a rival gang on a hot July night in 2012.

“One of the shots hit their target,” Ricci said of a separate victim, a man who survived the shooting. “And another hit Heaven in the back as she ran for the safety of her own home.”

Heaven’s brother Malik Ellis, who was 15 at the time, was the first witness in the trial.

He told jurors that moments before the shooting — which happened about 10:45 p.m. — he’d walked his sister home from a friend’s backyard across the street because he and his pals were having a conversation about girls that was “inappropriate” for her young ears.

He left Heaven with their mom, who was hanging out near an open-sided tent in the family’s front yard in the 1700 block of North Luna Avenue. The tent housed a makeshift candy store the family operated during daylight hours.

Moments later, two men emerged from a gangway across the street and opened fire, according to prosecutors.

Dorsey, a member of the Mafia Insane Vice Lords, was one of the men, and his target was Marquise Monroe, a member of the 4 Corner Hustlers, prosecutors said.

“That night should have been one of those nights that fades from memory,” Ricci told jurors. “It’s not, and it never will be.”

Banks told the Sun-Times shortly after the shooting that she heard Heaven calling “Mommy! Mommy!” during the calamity.

“When she called my name, I knew she was scared,” she said. “I just couldn’t get to her. By the time I got there, she was just lifeless. She died in my arms.”

Defense attorney Michael Walsh on Monday urged jurors not to let sympathy for Banks and her family affect their judgment when it comes to deciding Dorsey’s fate.

“Obviously there’s a scourge in our city. . . . It’s a scourge of handgun violence, no one knows what to do about it,” Walsh said. “But, with that being said, this is about a trial of guilt or innocence. . . . It’s about the state meeting their burden of proof.”

Authorities believe they know who the other shooter was. He is in custody and facing a charge of attempted murder stemming from a separate case.

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