CHESTER — Antwan White, accused of killing the alleged rapist of a family member, had Tuesday what will surely be the first of many court appearances on a murder charge that involves shotgun blasts to the chest and face.
Prosecutor Chris Taylor alleged White blew the head off of Michael Jermaine Terry, who allegedly had sexually assaulted a 16-year-old female relative of both men within an hour before the July 29 killing.
A judge gave White, 21 – who never had so much as a jaywalking ticket before this, who held a job and was raising a 2-year-old daughter – a $40,000 bond.
The description of the killing – the awful death that Taylor called “retaliation” for the rape that people in court and out said was just as awful – caused an elderly woman in the courtroom to openly gasp.
Dozens of family, friends, a lawyer and more were there to say what a good and decent young man White is. White, his lawyer and family say he did not commit the crime.
However, Taylor said a witness told police that the witness and White went out after the alleged rape without the witness knowing White’s intentions. That was when White, Taylor said, saw Terry walking in the road and shot him twice.
White, armed with a shotgun, Taylor said, “went in pursuit of Mr. Terry.”
White’s family and friends said Terry, with a criminal record that dates back his entire adult life, had what happened to him coming to him – no matter who did it.
“The only thing Antwan is guilty of is loving his family,” said Tiffaney Craine, a cousin, after court. “It may seem he has a motive ... but I refuse to believe he is guilty.”
As to the rape allegations against Terry, whom Craine said she knows as well, she said, “It doesn’t surprise me at all.”
Laural Coleman said she spoke to White, her nephew, on the phone before court Tuesday morning.
“He just wants to go back to taking care of his family and his job,” Coleman said. “He’s a humble, nice young man.”
The rape of a family member – at this point still alleged as the investigation is not over – was a heinous crime that is “worse than murder,” said Sherry Fowler, a family friend whose daughter went to Lewisville High School with White.
Many supporters of White remain upset that he was even arrested in the first place for a crime against a man they believe had it coming.
“Whoever killed him was doing us a favor,” said Fowler.
Still, Terry never had a chance to go to court or talk to police or defend himself after he was accused of rape.
Tanya Crockett – Antwan White’s cousin and the mother of Terry’s son – said in court when looking at White: “He is presumed innocent.”
White gets court hearings where all are concerned about his rights and fairness. But Terry, Crockett said, had no day in court.
Legal experts have made it clear that criminal law does not allow taking the law into your own hands. Murder carries 30 years minimum, up to life in prison, if convicted.
Even if the victim, in the eyes of so many, may have had it coming to him.
Terry’s mother, Betty Mumford, said after court simply, “I want justice.”
The legal system will now figure out what is justice for Antwan White. It is up to police and prosecutors to prove White is guilty – if he is.
White is under no obligation to prove anything.
White’s lawyer, Arthur Gaston, has practiced in criminal court for decades. He has a huge following of family members and friends who believe in him and his innocence.
Aside from Terry’s mother, his son and his son’s mother, nobody appeared on his behalf in court Tuesday.
But prosecutor Taylor was also there to speak for the victim.
Taylor is the assistant solicitor, handling the bulk of the felony criminal cases in Chester County. If Michael Terry had been charged with rape after a police investigation, it would have been Taylor who would have prosecuted Terry.
But Michael Terry never went into any courtroom in handcuffs, surrounded by lawyers and supporters, as Antwan White did Tuesday, to face Taylor on the other side.
Terry was not backed by “presumed innocent” phrases that are in every law book in the history of America.
No, Terry was shot twice with a shotgun and died with gaping holes in his body under a summer moon before any cops and Taylor had a chance to do the job of convicting rapists that we pay them to do.
Andrew Dys 803-329-4065 firstname.lastname@example.org