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Remorse: The 14 Stories of Eric Morse

LEALAN JONES: Me and Lloyd, day one. We're going to find out about Eric Morse. Let's go, Lloyd.

MUCKIE: Bye.

JONES: On the road again.

(Door slams.)

LLOYD NEWMAN: This is Lloyd Newman, and I'm in the tenth grade at Phillips High School.

JONES: And this is LeAlan Jones, and I'm in the eleventh grade at King High School.

NEWMAN: Back on the scene, at the Ida B. Wells Housing Development.

JONES: One abandoned building, two abandoned building, three abandoned building, four . . .

NEWMAN: With a tape recorder and microphone.

JONES: Let you hear sounds of the ghetto.

DUDE: You rap?

JONES: I don't rap, man.

NEWMAN: Walking around the neighborhood with our equipment, everyone figured we must be rap singers.

DUDE: You sing?

JONES: No, I ain't gonna sing . . . I'm a reporter.

DUDE: What you doin' that for?

JONES: Talking about Eric Morse, the little boy that got thrown out the window over there. All right . . . I'm not a singer.

JONES: Thursday, October 13, 1994. Eric Morse, five years old, was dropped out of a fourteenth-story window by two other boys because Eric wouldn't steal candy for them. They were just ten and eleven years old.

NEWMAN: It happened in my back yard.

JONES: I can see the building from my house.

NEWMAN: It was big news here in Chicago.

NEWS REPORT MONTAGE:

Topping our news, tragedy at a South Side Housing Project. Cops say late last night five-year-old Eric Morse was ordered to steal . . .

A five-year-old boy refused to steal candy, so he was pushed from the fourteenth floor of a Chicago housing project . . .

A short life, a tragic death for five-year-old Eric Morse . . .

Neighbors say it was a horrifying sight . . .

Tonight the two boys, one ten, the other eleven, are charged with murder . . .

The cycle of kids killing kids seem to be escalating out of control . . .

Just when you thought you'd seen it all when it comes to juveniles and crime here in Chicago, now comes this . . .

JONES: People all over pointed to Eric's death as a symbol of everything that's gone wrong with a neighborhood like ours.

NEWMAN: Even the President got into the act.

PRESIDENT CLINTON: What do you think about those two kids, ten and eleven years old in Chicago, that threw that five year old boy out the window? A five-year-old kid, who knew right from wrong, lost his life at the age of five because he wouldn't steal candy.

(Fade into music.)

JONES: The whole country was shocked by the incident . . . at least for a week or two.

NEWMAN: But then the cameras and the reporters left. And we were all still here -- left to ponder another war story in the ‘hood. The lost lives, the spreading violence.

JONES: For kids growing up in our neighborhood, it was nothing new, and it wasn't surprising.

NEWMAN: I know lots and lots of people that's been killed. Just part of day-to-day life in the Ida B. Wells.

JONES: But this time, we decided to take a closer look at the incident, to talk to people involved -- neighbors, friends, and family of Eric Morse and the two little boys that killed him.

NEWMAN: For a year, Lloyd and I traveled our 'hood, looking into the murder of Eric Morse.

JONES: We call our documentary Remorse.

Jones: We began our taping a year ago and decided to start right at the top, with Vince Lane, who was then the Chairman of the Chicago Housing Authority.

NEWMAN: He met us at the building where the crime took place.

JONES: We are now standing at the site where Eric Morse, a young man that was threw from a fourteen-story window. Chairman Lane, this is fourteen stories. To a young person living in this community, I mean, it looks dead. You know, you have one abandoned building, it looks like, you know, a fourteen-story cemetery. If you lived in this community, and you were a young person, what would be your thought of living here?

LANE: My thought would be it would be hell. And my thought would be, 'cause I am a dreamer, I'd dream all the time about green grass, and I'd be dreaming about playing basketball. And I'd be dreaming about going camping. But I certainly wouldn't be dreaming about staying here, where you got to literally look over your shoulder every waking moment.

JONES: We're going to now walk upstairs to the fourteenth floor.

(Sounds of footsteps.)

JONES: 3833 South Langley is one of four high-rise buildings in the Ida B. Wells. One of the high-rises is completely boarded up. The rest are mostly vacant. The buildings are tall, red brick, and dirty.

NEWMAN: They look like prisons. The outdoor walkways on each floor are all caged in with steel mesh.

JONES: We are now walking in.

JONES: Inside, the building is dark, cold, and ugly. Concrete everywhere.

NEWMAN: There's a lot of graffiti, and it smells real bad.

JONES: We're now entering the elevator. The elevator is not working.

JONES: There's always time to kill in these buildings, waiting for the elevators. So we had plenty of time to talk.

JONES: Could you please tell me the story of Eric Morse?

LANE: Eric was the victim of two young people who didn't have anything else to do. Their fathers were both incarcerated. Mother . . .

JONES: Everyone in the neighborhood knows the story. Eric's death involved four kids. Two victims: Eric Morse and his eight-year-old brother Derrick, and two assailants.

NEWMAN: We'll call them Johnny and Tyrone, since they're minors.

JONES: Johnny and Tyrone tried to get Eric to steal candy with them. Eric told on the boys, and they decided to seek revenge. On October 13th, 1994, Johnny and Tyrone saw Eric and his brother outside of this building and asked them if they wanted to see their clubhouse, which was actually a vacant apartment on the fourteenth floor. The four shorties -

NEWMAN: That's what we call little kids.

JONES: -- went upstairs. They pulled off the boards covering the entrance to apartment 1405, and went inside. Johnny and Tyrone grabbed Eric and held him out of a window. Derrick grabbed his brother's arm, and pulled him back in, but Johnny and Tyrone took Eric to a second window and held him out. Derrick grabbed Eric again, but this time one of the boys bit Derrick's hand. Derrick had to let go, and five-year-old Eric Morse fell fourteen stories. Derrick ran out of the apartment, down fourteen flights of stairs, in an attempt to save his brother.

NEWMAN: He said he thought he could catch him before he hit the ground.

JONES: Eric was pronounced dead ten minutes later.

JONES: We're on the fourteenth floor, and this is not a penthouse view. Right off in the distance you can see the Stateway apartment buildings. You see a liquor store. You see two or three liquor stores.

LANE: And the other part of this view is you see -- if you look at the young people who are on the street who basically have nowhere to go --they're there now, and three hours from now they'll be there. And that's the difference between a healthy community: people in healthy communities have things to do, positive things to do; people in public housing have nothing to do.

JONES: Excuse me, I want to bring some of the tenants in. 'Scuse me. What would be one thing you'd like to say to Chairman Lane of the CHA about living in these homes?

TENANT: It's just not a fitting place to really live. Look at the rats, how they runnin' through here. I mean, not just mice, rats. In my apartment there I sit up in my bed and I watch rats just run over the floor, don't give me no respect or nothing. Like I say, this is not a fitting place for a human being to live.

JONES: Young man, young man! 'Scuse me young man. 'Scuse me, sir, what is your name?

SEDRICK: Sedrick.

JONES: How do you feel living in this community?

SEDRICK: I don't want to live here.

JONES: Where would you like to live?

SEDRICK: Anywhere except around here.

JONES: What is so bad around here that makes you not want to live around here?

SEDRICK: They be shootin'.

JONES: How old are you?

SEDRICK: Twelve.

JONES: Twelve years old. Do you know about Eric Morse?

SEDRICK: Yeah.

JONES: Did you know Eric Morse?

SEDRICK: Yeah.

JONES: Do you know the kids that did it?

SEDRICK: Yeah. Everybody want to beat them up.

JONES: Did you feel that could happen to you?

SEDRICK: Yeah.

JONES: Do you know who this man is standing here? You know, he's the chairman of all of this. What would you like to say to him?

SEDRICK: Hi.

(Laughter.)

(Music fades in.)

NEWMAN: The next day, LeAlan and I went back to the building, without Chairman Lane and his crew, to check it out for ourselves.

JONES: Where you want to start? First to the top?

NEWMAN: Top to the bottom.

JONES: Right. All right. One vacant apartment, two vacant apartments, all these vacant apartments.

JONES: We knew it was going to be tough getting interviews.

NEWMAN: People in the projects are suspicious . . .

JONES: Knock on the door.

(Sound of knocking.)

TENANT: Who is it?

NEWMAN: Lloyd Newman with NPR. We'd like to ask you a few questions about Eric Morse.

JONES: You sound like the lawman, you better chill it out. Gonna get a Mossburg in your chest.

NEWMAN: We're doing a story on Eric Morse, the young man thrown off a fourteenth-story window.

TENANT: Honey, I don't know nothing about that poor little child. I just heard about it. That’s all, baby.

JONES: All right, thank you.

NEWMAN: . . . but we had no idea it was going to be this tough.

(Sound of knocking.)

NEWMAN: Lloyd Newman with NPR, can we ask you a few questions about Eric Morse?

TENANT: I'm busy right now, I don't have the time.

(Door slams.)

TENANT: Who?

JONES: National Public Radio.

(Door slams.)

TENANT: You doin' what now?

(Door slams.)

TENANT: No. Not interested in being interviewed.

(Door slams.)

JONES: Man . . .

(Music ends.)

JONES: Anybody home? Anybody home?

NEWMAN: This whole floor abandoned.

NEWMAN: Most of the apartments were vacant anyway.

JONES: Ghost town.

JONES: So we had plenty of time to think about Eric Morse.

(Music fades in.)

JONES: What was that yelling?

NEWMAN: Man, Shorty fell from way up here.

JONES: Way up here. Dog . . .

NEWMAN: Way up here.

JONES: Pshew.

JONES: I wonder how he felt, falling from fourteen stories. What the hell would have been going through your mind?

NEWMAN: I don’t know. I’d just be thinkin' about how I'm gonna land and if I'm gonna survive. I’d be thinking about how it is in heaven. But I know I won't have that much time to think.

JONES: Man, I don't know what I could have been thinkin' about. I probably would have said a prayer or something. That's all you could have said. God, forgive me for my sins. Amen.

(Music.)

JONES: Since Shorty was so young, you know he went to heaven ‘cause, you know . . . Dude, you think they got a playground in heaven for them shorties?

NEWMAN: Nope. Ain't no playground in heaven for nobody.

(Music.)

JONES: I don't know, man. How you figure there ain't no playground in heaven for little kids?

NEWMAN: God didn't make it special for nobody.

JONES: What Shorty gonna do up there? He wasn't old enough to do nothing bad enough to go to no hell, so what could he do up there?

NEWMAN: I got to think. He ain't doin' nothin' up there.

JONES: What he doin', just kickin' it? Or is he reincarnated or something. Maybe he a little bird or something.

(Music ends.)

JONES: We came back to the building Eric Morse was dropped from over and over again, trying to get interviews. On the seventh floor, finally, some luck.

(Sound of knocking.)

We knocked on a door covered with graffiti.

ISAAC: Who is it?

JONES: It's LeAlan Jones.

NEWMAN: It was a kid who answered.

JONES: His name was Isaac. A little kid trying to act big.

JONES: Hello. We're doing a story with National Public Radio, and we wanted to ask you a few questions. How old are you sir?

ISAAC: Thirty-seven.

JONES: You thirty-seven years old. And you standing like 5’, about 4' 11". How old are you for real, sir?

ISAAC: Eleven.

JONES: Did you know Eric Morse?

ISAAC: Yeah.

JONES: Did you know the people that did it?

ISAAC: Yeah. The boy who killed them -- he was in my classroom.

JONES: What type of kids were they? Were they very, very, very bad?

ISAAC: Yes. When they used to go do bad stuff, I used to go.

JONES: Used to go down there and steal?

ISAAC: Yeah.

NEWMAN: What were you stealing?

ISAAC: I used to steal gold chains and a lot of stuff.

JONES: Why did you want to run with that crowd?

ISAAC: 'Cause when you, like, you don't have nothing else to do, then you say you probably want to get down with them.

JONES: Isaac is short, heavy, and looks sad. He holds an infant in his arms.

JONES: Is that a boy or a girl?

ISAAC: A boy.

JONES: Would you want that young boy to grow up just like you?

ISAAC: Nope. I want him be a better person than me.

JONES: Like make sure that his friends don't die like that.

ISAAC: Yeah, him too. Not just his friends, him too.

JONES: Isaac tells us that the baby is three days old, and belongs to his sister, Tymeka.

JONES: Can I speak to her?

ISAAC: Tymeka!

JONES: Tymeka comes out to talk to us. When we tell her what we're doing, she tells us that she has a theory about what happened to Eric Morse. She thinks that Johnny and Tyrone were probably trying to scare Eric by holding him out the window, and dropped him by accident.

TYMEKA: Them children didn't just do this. You can't tell me they did that. To pick a child up and throw him out the window? That is cruel, that is evil. An adult would do something like that, but not no children. Who that cruel?

JONES: Tymeka says that she was close to Johnny, the ten year-old boy involved in the incident. She met Johnny when he and his family were staying in this building.

NEWMAN: We'd already heard about him around the neighborhood. Of the two boys who did this, Johnny was supposed to be the really bad one, a menace.

JONES: He had been put on probation just a month before the incident on gun possession charges.

NEWMAN: Ten years old.

JONES: But Tymeka says she knew a different Johnny.

TYMEKA: I got next to him. And he's not a terrible child. He's not. He need some love.

(Sound of baby crying.)

SANDRA: He just needed somebody to show him some guidance and some attention.

JONES: That's Sandra, Tymeka and Isaac's mother.

SANDRA: Ain't no kid just born bad. A kid only grows to be what they see another person put in them. They can only put out what people put in ‘em. The only thing he knows is to kick other people around because that’s what he got when he was at home.

(Sound of baby crying.)

TYMEKA: The person you think the dirtiest person, the meanest person in the world, got a side you can get to. You know?

You hungry? I fixin’ to go feed him . . . I need to eat myself.

JONES: All right then.

JONES: We walked to the door with Tymeka's little brother Isaac. He was staring out the window while we were talking and looked sad.

JONES: When you look out this window, what do you see?

ISSAC: Everything.

JONES: You see good things?

ISSAC: Yeah, sometimes. Like when I don't see anybody out there selling drugs. That be good things, or if I don't see nobody getting beat up or nothing.

JONES: What's the bad things you see when you look out this window?

ISSAC: People getting beat up. Shot down. People going crazy.

JONES: Isaac stood at the door as we walked out into the hallway.

JONES: Thank you, Isaac. You've been great, great, great man. And stay strong, man. Don't let nobody get you doing nothing bad. All right?

ISAAC: All right.

JONES: Bye bye. Close the door.

(Door closes.)

JONES: That show you how lonely these kids is, man.

NEWMAN: Why, ‘cause they'll talk?

JONES: They just like goddamn M&Ms -- they all hard on the outside, and all sweet on the inside. I mean, around here you can’t show that sweet . . .

NEWMAN: You saw how he was about to cry?

JONES: Yeah, I saw that. You ready to go? Let’s get this floor and get out of here.

(Tape recorder clicks off.)

JONES: Two sides of the story. At the Juvenile Courts Building in downtown Chicago.

(Tape recorder clicks on.)

JONES: Hello. Today we're here with Kay Hanlon, the prosecutor for the Eric Morse case. How you doin', Kay?

HANLON: I'm doing very well thank you. How are you?

JONES: I'm doing fine. We'd like to ask you . . . Do you remember what went through your mind when you first heard this?

HANLON: The first thing I thought about was, I've been in juvenile court for almost two years, and I've seen some pretty horrible things, and the first thing that I could think about was that this was probably one of the most horrible things I've seen in two years. It was almost unbelievable. I always think that I've seen the worst thing that could happen to people, and you kind of just get on with it, and then this. And I was pretty shocked.

JONES: Do you think this could have been a mistake?

HANLON: No.

JONES: Or an accident of some sort?

HANLON: No. I don't think so. Actually, I'm sure it couldn't be an accident because of the way that it happened.

JONES: Do you feel that these children were bred in a life of violence? 'Cause I live in that community and it seems to be getting worser and worser and worser every year. Do you feel that violence has bred violence into these children?

HANLON: I certainly think that their backgrounds are different than a lot of other kids. I mean, anybody who commits this kind of crime probably has gone through something in their lives. But then again, I look at other kids, and like you're saying, for example, you grew up in that community. Well, look what you're doing. It's a far cry from committing first degree murder. So I think it's a part of it. It’s a piece of it that definitely that needs to be addressed, and it needs to be addressed long before I see these kids, because by the time they come to me and I have to prosecute them, the deed’s already done. The murder’s already been committed, so I think it has to start long before it gets to me.

JONES: Okay, thank you, Mrs. Kay Hanlon, prosecutor of Eric Morse’s case. Thank you.

(Phones and office sounds at the Public Defender’s office.)

JONES: After we left Kay Hanlon, we went up one floor in the Juvenile Courts building to talk to the people on the other side of the case -- lawyers with the Juvenile Public Defenders office. We met the four attorneys representing Johnny, the ten year-old defendant, and asked if they thought that the kids who committed this crime were influenced by all the violence in the neighborhood.

DAVID HIRSCHBOEK: These people that we represent are exposed to violence. They're exposed to shootings. They see shootings, they see stabbings, they see everything.

NEWMAN: This is attorney Dave Hirschboek.

HIRSCHBOEK: There's a history of violence that's just so incredible. They see people being shot when they're two or three years old. They've had relatives who have been shot or killed or whatever . . . it's just . . . yes. Does that effect these children and is that what's going on? I think that's a big part of what's going on.

JONES: This is something I said many years ago. I said that these young kids . . . if you put their mind state at a young age with the mind state of a Vietnam veteran, they would have very much similarities.

HIRSCHBOEK: What you're saying is very apropos to what's going on here. You talk about Vietnam. And there's this whole history of traumatic stress syndrome.

HUTT: But, you know the thing that I've noticed . . .

NEWMAN: This is attorney Rick Hutt.

HUTT: In all the time I've been here, I've never once seen a kid -- and I’ve seen, you know, we get up to seventeen . . . I've seen a kid sixteen years, eight months, 6 foot 1, 190 pounds, carries a gun. His father's incarcerated, his mother hasn't seen him, and I've talked to the kids and within five minutes, and I see a little boy. A little boy starts talking to me. You've got little boys over there who never had a chance to be little boys. And I don't care what they're accused of doing, and how big and how mean they want to be, five minutes tops, you start talking to little boys. And every one of them -- you can see it --they're all savable. Every one of them, yeah.

HIRSCHBOEK: I am not ready to relegate these people to the scrap heap of humanity, and I'll fight it until the day I die.

ATTORNEY: Without a doubt.

NEWMAN: Thank you all.

ATTORNEYS: Thank you.

(Tape recorder clicks off.)

(Music fades in.)

  (Door opens.)

JONES: Let's go.

NEWMAN: April, 1995. Me and LeAlan. Kicking it . . .

JONES: Working on the story. People on the street are still mystified by our tape recorders.

PASSERBY: You all rap?

JONES: (In a fake drawl.) No, we can't rap. We country singers. We sing country western music. (Laughs.)

DUDE: You rap?

JONES: No, I don't rap. I'm talkin' about, you know the little guy that got threw out of the window, Eric Morse?

DUDE #1: Them kids. They have never been taught it don't take much to kill a person, they be lookin' at these cartoons. And they thought that this little boy couldn't die.

DUDE #2: Ain't like Bugs Bunny. Go down and splash, and next scene he up there runnin' around getting chased again.

DUDE #1: They couldn't have. A child can't have the sense to where they're going to push somebody out the window, man. Something had to go through them kids’ mind right then . . .

NEWMAN: Everybody in the community seemed to know something about the incident.

JONES: We wanted to find out more about the kids involved in the murder. Would we recognize them from around the neighborhood? Who were they? How did they end up in this situation? Hard questions.

NEWMAN: We went looking for some answers . . .

JONES: We heard from a lot of people that things might have turned out differently for these kids if someone had just shown some interest in them.The kids were showing plenty of signs of trouble before the incident -- lots of arrests, failing school. They even tried to set their school building on fire. But no one -- not their parents, not the school, not the courts -- no one seemed to have reached out to them at all.

NEWMAN: Then LeAlan found someone who had tried.

JONES: My cousin told me about a friend of his who knew Johnny and Tyrone.

JONES: I'm looking for that guy. You said Scuggs.

JONES: I tracked him down, and he met me in my room for an interview.

Jones: Excuse me, sir, what is your name?

MILLER: Suggs Miller.

JONES: What do you know about this Eric Morse story that you can tell the people that want to know?

MILLER: Well, I'm the President at Doolittle West, the local school council, and the two young men that did it went to Doolittle, so I know them both actually . . .

JONES: Suggs says that of the two boys involved in the murder, he was closest to Johnny. The ten year old . . . the really “wild” one. When we did the interview, Suggs used real names, so we had to beep them out.

MILLER: I can remember when he was starting school in kindergarten. (Beep) came to school once with two bags of rock cocaine. Kindergarten. He gave one to his friend and he kept one. The friend swallowed his, (beep) stuck his in his pants once the teacher saw them, you know. But these kids were, like, at that time five, six years old. Where did he get it from? Had to be in his household, you know. But when (beep) was in school I could talk to him. He would flare up. He was very sensitive. You know he'd flare up and fight in a minute, but I could talk to him and he'd calm down and he would talk to me. And it just seemed like all he needed was someone to spend some time with him. When it happened it made me feel bad because I felt like I should have spent more time with him. We had, at Doolittle, tried to get help for him, and unfortunately we weren't able to get it for him in time enough.

JONES: All right, thank you.

(Sounds of video games.)

JONES: A few days later, playing video games at Lloyd's house with some of Lloyd’s little buddies from the neighborhood.

NEWMAN: This is Lloyd Newman sitting here with . . .

ANTONIO ANDERSON: Antonio Anderson.

CLINTON BROWNWELL: Clinton Brownwell.

JONES: We told Antonio and Clinton about our documentary, and Antonio told us he was playing with Eric right before he got murdered.

ANDERSON: I was with him.

JONES: I hear that if kids witness a tragedy like this in suburban communities, they bring in the counselors and social workers and psychiatrists. Not here.

NEWMAN: In the Ida B. Wells, we get to deal with murder by ourselves.

JONES: Almost every kid around here's seen someone get shot. A lot of times it's someone in their family. We talk about murder like we talk about last night’s Bulls game -- if we talk about it at all . . .

ANDERSON: Yeah, we was hanging out together. But I didn't go upstairs with him. I stayed downstairs. Because I thought they was gonna take him over to somebody house. That's why I stayed downstairs.

NEWMAN: When they asked him to go up to the fourteenth floor, Eric didn't know what was goin' to happen, did he?

ANDERSON: Nope.

JONES: So you was with him right before it happened?

ANDERSON: Yup. I was outside.

NEWMAN: You saw him falling out the air?

ANDERSON: Yup.

BROWNWELL: Let me talk.

JONES: That's Clinton.

BROWNWELL: If he saw Eric Morse fallin' out the air, he should have ran over there and caught him, dummy!

NEWMAN: How you gonna catch someone falling from fourteen stories up?

BROWNWELL: He still could have caught him if he fell. I would have caught him, and then if we would have caught him, his mother wouldn't believe that he fell out the fourteenth floor window.

NEWMAN: Did you see the body?

ANDERSON: Hmm hmmm . . . He had blood on him.

JONES: Was he alive?

ANDERSON: Nope. He was dead.

NEWMAN: Thank you very much.

(Music fades in.)

NEWMAN: Over and over, me and LeAlan would come back to the place where Eric died.

JONES: The spot -- just a patch of dirt -- is exactly half way between our two houses.

JONES: You're standing where somebody got killed, man. I mean that's like walking over a graveyard.

NEWMAN: Why it make you feel different to stand right here?

JONES: It do, man . . .

NEWMAN: Why, though? You ain't standing on his grave or nothin’, you just standing on grass. It happened right here, but it ain't right here.

JONES: That's like Indian burial ground, homey. You ain't never gonna catch no Indian walking over another Indian's grave, where he died or whatever, man. I mean, you never know. Shorty’s soul could be looking at us now, doing a story on him.

JONES: Standing at the site, a little boy walks up.

NEWMAN: He tells us he wants to talk.

JONES: Excuse me, what is your name?

ANTONIO: Antonio J.

JONES: What is your relationship to Eric Morse?

ANTONIO: He my cousin.

JONES: How does it make you feel that your cousin is gone?

ANTONIO: It make me feel bad. I cry every night when I go to sleep.

JONES: What are some of the things that you miss about your cousin?

ANTONIO: I miss how he used to play with me. He was my bestest one.

JONES: Best cousin, huh?

ANTONIO: Yeah.

JONES: What did you do when you first heard that your cousin was dead?

ANTONIO: I started crying.

JONES: How long did you cry after Eric died?

ANTONIO: About nine days.

JONES: What made you stop you crying about it?

ANTONIO: I just stopped watching the news, and I stopped crying.

JONES: How old are you?

ANTONIO: Ten.

JONES: Do you know the guys that did it?

ANTONIO: Yeah. He go to our school too and I beat him up about five times.

JONES: You beat him up? For what?

ANTONIO: For killing my cousin.

JONES: What school do you go to?

ANTONIO: Doolittle.

JONES: How do they look at you when they find out you Eric Morse’s cousin?

ANTONIO: They start picking on me, so I beat 'em up.

JONES: So you just beat up everybody?

ANTONIO: Yup. They always talking about him.

JONES: Antonio's wearing a dirty jacket and a skullcap. He's short, dark skinned and young looking for his age.

JONES: You know this is where your cousin fell?

ANTONIO: There go his blood right there.

JONES: Where?

JONES: Come show us where his blood at.

ANTONIO: Right there . . . under that window.

JONES: You think you could just stay right here for about fifteen minutes and just think of Eric?

ANTONIO: No.

JONES: Why?

ANTONIO: I don't want to.

JONES: You'll be ready to leave, huh?

ANTONIO: I'll be ready to cry.

NEWMAN: You'll be thinking about him.

ANTONIO: I'm gonna start crying, then I'll start swinging.

JONES: But you think violence gonna bring Eric back?

ANTONIO: No, he ain't coming back.

JONES: Antonio tells us that he knows where we can find someone else who’s involved in the case. A boy named Casanova, the younger brother of Tyrone, the eleven-year-old involved in the death of Eric Morse. They're in the same class at Doolittle.

JONES: You see Casanova in school.

ANTONIO: Yeah, I beat him up today.

JONES: Antonio walks with us to another part of the Ida B. Wells to find Tyrone's little brother.

ANTONIO: Casanova . . . Cas, come here.

NEWMAN: That's him?

ANTONIO: Yeah. Cas, come on Joe. I ain't gonna touch you.

JONES: We found Casanova playing in a parking lot with his baby cousin.

CASANOVA: What?

JONES: We ain’t gonna touch you. What's your name?

CASANOVA: Casanova.

JONES: How old is you?

CASANOVA: Nine.

JONES: Casanova is small looking for his age. He has plugs in his hair -- patches of bald spots on his head from trying to give himself a haircut.

JONES: You know what your brother did?

CASANOVA: Nope.

LITTLE VOICE: Out the window . . .

OTHER CHILD: He know everything.

NEWMAN: That's Casanova's baby cousin.

JONES: You know what your cousin did?

COUSIN: Throw that little boy out the window.

JONES: How old is you?

COUSIN: Five.

OTHER CHILD: They the same age.

CASANOVA: Uh huh. He didn't throw him the window. This is how it happened. At first my brother was going to throw him out the window, then . . .

NEWMAN: Casanova says that at first his brother Tyrone was going to throw Eric out of the window, but then he helped him back in. Then Johnny, the ten-year-old, told Eric to look at some cats that were having a cat-fight downstairs, and got him to stand up on the windowsill, and then Johnny just pushed him out of the window. Eric fell. His shirt was up over his head . . .

CASANOVA: His shirt was up over his head. That's how it went.

JONES: You think you gonna be like your brother?

CASANOVA: Nope.

JONES: Why?

CASANOVA: Because I ain’t bad.

  ANTONIO: Yes you is. You be stealing out of Jewels.

JONES: Jewels is the neighborhood supermarket. The same supermarket Casanova's brother tried to get Eric to steal from.

JONES: What you take out of Jewels?

CASANOVA: Candy.

NEWMAN: What’d you steal for? What you steal for?

CASANOVA: 'Cause I be hungry.

JONES: Did you ever used to steal with your big brother?

CASANOVA: No.

JONES: Why?

CASANOVA: 'Cause my brother didn't like me hanging with him.

NEWMAN: He didn’t? How old is your brother?

CASANOVA: Thirteen.

NEWMAN: How old is you?

CASANOVA: Nine.

JONES: All right, little Casanova. All right, Shorty.

(Prison sounds.)

NEWMAN: One week later. April 20th, 1995, at the Hill Correctional Center in Galesburg, Illinois. A three-hour drive from Chicago.

GUARD: I'll pat you down.

JONES: Visiting Tommy Jenkins, the father of Casanova, the little boy we just met, and Tyrone, the eleven year-old involved in the murder of Eric Morse.

NEWMAN: Tommy Jenkins is serving an eight year sentence for aggravated battery.

JONES: We interviewed him in a prison visiting room. Tommy Jenkins is short, muscular, and dark skinned. I've heard that you can see the son in every father. Since we weren't allowed to meet Tyrone, we figured Tommy was the next best thing.

JONES: Where were you when you found out that someone was killed in your community?

JENKINS: I was in Stateville, and I had heard it on the radio. And by me and my son being real tight, when you close to somebody you get a feeling, and when I heard it over the radio, you just had this premonition, you know. But we come off lock up, and I talked to his mother, and she was crying on the phone. But I had already knew. It was just that feeling -- that gut feeling that you have, right.

NEWMAN: We asked Tommy to describe Tyrone for us.

JENKINS: Warm. He’s sensitive. He's understanding. He's kind hearted.

JONES: Do you feel that your absence led to the alleged incident?

JENKINS: Yes, it did, because when a father and his child are separated, a child has the tendency to take the wrong route in life. And that happens to us all. You hang with the wrong peoples, eventually gonna happen, and this is what happened.

JONES: Before Tommy got arrested, Tyrone was doing okay in school and staying out of trouble. Once Tommy got locked up, Tyrone got lost. He started failing out, fighting like crazy, and doing petty crimes. Then this -- a crime Tommy still can't believe was committed on purpose, by the same boy he left behind.

JENKINS: What happened . . . it was just dumb. Kids doing dumb stuff. You know, it's not like they went and got a gun and shot somebody deliberately. It was not like that. This was kids doing dumb stuff.

NEWMAN: What would you say to either one of your sons if you could see them right now?

JENKINS: That I love them. And no matter what happened I’m there for you. So, just take it one step at a time. Because I'm always gonna be there for 'em. No matter what happen. No matter what happen.

JONES: This is LeAlan Jones.

NEWMAN: Lloyd Newman.

JONES: And we're signing off. Peace.

(Tape recorder clicks off.)

(Music.)

JONES: For months, we tried to find the family of the ten-year-old boy involved in the crime, Johnny. We heard that the family moved out of the Ida B. Wells right after the incident into Johnny's sister's apartment, but didn't know where to find them. Until someone told us where they were staying: in a project on the West Side of Chicago.

(Door shuts.)

When we walked in the building, we saw an old friend hanging out at the security desk, Little Wayne.

JONES: What's up, Little Wayne?

WAYNE: What's up?

JONES: We thought nothing of it, until we asked the security guard where we could find Johnny's sister.

WAYNE: That's my sister.

JONES: What's up, Little Wayne, man.

NEWMAN: It is?

JONES: What's up, Wayne, man.

JONES: Johnny -- the ten-year-old killer -- was our friend's little brother. Me and Little Wayne used to play baseball together, and I remember the little boy he used to bring with him to the games, Johnny.

JONES: That's your little brother.

WAYNE: Yeah.

JONES: Man, what happened, man?

WAYNE: I don't know.

JONES: Little Wayne took us up to his sister's apartment.

JONES: I'm LeAlan Jones from National Public Radio.

SISTER: Well that's my brother and I ain't talkin' about it. Go on, get out.

(Door slams.)

JONES: The rest of the family wouldn't talk to us. So we interviewed Little Wayne outside his apartment.

JONES: Talkin' to him in a crowded hallway in the projects, with about six little kids around, man. That's why it's so noisy.

BOYS: What? Fuck you, bitch. Get that bitch.

JONES: Who is he?

WAYNE: My nephew.

JONES: How old are you?

BOY: Five.

EMMANUEL: I'm six.

JONES: What's your name?

EMMANUEL: Emmanuel.

JONES: What grade you in?

EMMANUEL: Kindergarten.

JONES: Kindergarten. You miss your Uncle?

EMMANUEL: Yeah. (Laughs.)

BOY: He be smoking reefer -- his uncle.

EMMANUEL: No, he don't.

BOY: Yes. He do. He do, he do. Stop playin' with me.

JONES: The kids ran up and down the hallway.

NEWMAN: And we talked to Little Wayne about his brother Johnny.

JONES: What are some of the fun things you remember about your little brother?

WAYNE: He used to help me fight. I used to help him fight. We did everything with each other and stuff.

JONES: You ever shed tears about your little brother?

WAYNE: No . . .

NEWMAN: Why not?

WAYNE: 'Cause, I just get that off my mind.

JONES: You just gonna keep livin' your life.

WAYNE: Yup.

SECURITY: Excuse me, sister just said she don’t want you at her apartment, so you have to leave her apartment . . .

JONES: Johnny's sister called Nation of Islam security on us.

NEWMAN: So we wrapped up the interview and walked out.

(Door slams.)

JONES: I always knew when I started this story I was going to know some of the faces involved. But I didn't expect this. I couldn't believe I actually knew this little boy who committed the murder. Just a shy, scrawny light skinned boy. No different than any other kid in the neighborhood - just exposed to too much, too young, and he exploded.

JONES: That's closer than I imagined. It’s closer than I goddamn imagined . . .

(Tape recorder clicks off.)

JONES: Our final interview.

NEWMAN: October, 1995.

JONES: We waited eight months to speak to Toni Morse, Eric's mother, and Derrick, Eric's brother.

NEWMAN: Who was with Eric when he got thrown out of the window.

JONES: We met them at their attorney's office, who told us that out of all of the requests from across the country, this was the only interview Toni Morse was granting to anyone in the media. We weren't allowed to ask about the incident specifically, but we wanted to learn something about Eric . . .

NEWMAN: . . . from Toni and Derrick.

JONES: Today we're here with Toni Morse and Derrick Lemon, the half brother of Eric Morse and the mother of Eric Morse. Hello.

TONI MORSE: How you doin'?

JONES: Fine. First I want to say thank you from my heart for you agreeing to do this interview with us. I'm just thankful. What is one of your fondest memories of Eric that just doesn't leave your mind?

MORSE: He’d tell a lot of jokes.

JONES: He was a joker?

MORSE: Yes, he was. Kept me laughing. Just always say little humorous things. I always think about him. Think about him everyday. He kept me smilin' and laughing, and that just keep me going all in life, by thinking about him all the time. Just miss his little butt . . .

JONES: I know you love your son very much. I can see that now, you know. Do you feel any animosity toward the parents of the young men, for allowing them to do such a thing?

MORSE: I just feel sorry for 'em for not raising they kids like that. There have to be something wrong with anybody to do something like that.

NEWMAN: What kind of future do you think the little children will have?

MORSE: Not very much of a future.

JONES: How do you feel towards the young men that did this?

DERRICK LEMON: Bad.

JONES: Derrick, who's in the fourth grade now, wears a big Chicago Bulls shirt and has a shy smile and twinkly eyes.

NEWMAN: I can imagine him running down the fourteen stories to try to catch Eric before he hit the ground.

JONES: If you had one more day to spend with your brother, what would you do?

LEMON: Go swimming and play with him a lot.

JONES: Where do you feel your brother is at now?

LEMON: In heaven.

NEWMAN: Is he still your little brother, or is he your big brother ‘cause he higher up?

LEMON: Little.

JONES: Little brother, huh? Another thing, Ms. Morse. How do you think Derrick's life’s changed since the incident?

MORSE: He do a lot of fighting now, something he ain't never did. Tell him you rebellious. You like to fight people now.

LEMON: Fight. Throw crayons.

NEWMAN: You get your anger out by fighting?

LEMON: Sometimes.

MORSE: Maybe he's lashing out. I don't know. Probably he’s lashing out, because at a time he wouldn't fight. Him or Eric. They would run from people.

NEWMAN: Does he ever talk about his brother?

MORSE: Of course he do. We always talk about him. I want him to talk about him for the rest of his life.

JONES: If you had one more thing to say to Eric, what would it be?

MORSE: That I love him and I miss him.

JONES: Forever and always, huh?

MORSE: Mmmh hmm.

NEWMAN: Thank you.

JONES: Nice meeting you. Thank you.

MORSE: Thank you, too.

(Tape recorder clicks off. Silence.)

(Music.)

MAN: Reporter, man?

JONES: Reporter all the way.

NEWMAN: So now it's me and LeAlan, back to our lives.

JONES: Johnny and Tyrone were convicted of murder in November. In January, they became the youngest kids in the nation ever sentenced to prison. Before this, the maximum sentence in Illinois for children younger than thirteen was parole and counseling. After the death of Eric Morse, the law was changed so that kids as young as ten can be sent to the state juvenile penitentiary --where they’ll probably stay locked up until they're twenty-one.Then they'll come back for another tour of duty in this war-zone we call home. It's a tragedy to me, because I know that with a little more love and guidance and hope, they would have turned out more like us.

NEWMAN: And without it, we would have turned out more like them.

JONES: After all our interviews, we still can't give you the answers. But we do know this: no one should be surprised that this happened, and everyone should know that this will happen again. And the victims and the assailants will keep getting younger and younger. Because around here, children are growing up with absolutely nothing. Nothing to do, nothing to hope for, and nothing to lose.

NEWMAN: There's only so much a kid can take.

JONES: A lot of things that happen in this neighborhood are senseless. And I can't make too much sense out of the death of Eric Morse. All I can do is hope -- hope that the silencing of this one five year-old child might get people to listen a little more closely to the rest of our voices, and understand a little more about the realities we face everyday. There's plenty of remorse to go around in our neighborhood, plenty of tragedy to consider. But we try not to think about it too much.

NEWMAN: Could make you crazy.

JONES: We just keep looking forward. Going about our business as best we can. It's how we survive, growing up in the ghetto.

JONES: Well go on ahead to the crib, and cut off. I'll be over there.

(Tape recorder clicks off.)

JONES: This is LeAlan Jones . . .

NEWMAN: . . . and Lloyd Newman. Peace.


Reporters: LeAlan Jones and Lloyd Newman / Producers: Dave Isay, LeAlan Jones, and Lloyd Newman / Editor: Gary Covino / Music: Frank Morgan / Legal Counsel: Michael Alcamo / Assistant Producers: Shelle Davis and Jay Jones / Supervising Engineer: Caryl Wheeler / Additional Engineering: Rick Karr / Executive Producer for All Things Considered: Ellen Weiss / Funding provided by the Chicago Community Trust and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Remorse: The 14 Stories of Eric Morse premiered March 21, 1996, on All Things Considered. Copyright © 1996 Sound Portraits Productions. All Rights Reserved.

 

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MORE

Remorse and Ghetto Life 101 on CD

Our America, a book based on the documentary

Ghetto Life 101, a documentary reported by LeAlan Jones and Lloyd Newman

Blak's Story, a documentary inspired by this one

Youth Portraits, a series of radio stories by young adults who served time in prison

Photos of the Ida B. Wells Housing Projects in 1942, from the Library of Congress

Photos of the Ida B. Wells Housing Projects in 2003, by John Brooks

Updates by Lloyd Newman and LeAlan Jones, the reporters of this documentary [posted 7/19/01]



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