As Miguel Hernandez's defense attorneys concluded their case Tuesday, one question remained: Would their client, charged with first-degree murder in the death of a 5-year-old Elgin boy, testify on his own behalf?
Outside the presence of the jury, Hernandez told Cook County Judge Bridget Hughes he was unable to decide. Hughes gave him until 10 a.m. Wednesday to make up his mind. Either way, she said, jurors will hear closing arguments and begin deliberations Wednesday.
Hernandez, 29, is charged with shooting Eric Galarza Jr., in 2011 outside the boy's Elma Drive home. The boy died from a single gunshot wound to his head just above his right eyebrow, testified Kane County coroner's physician Dr. Larry Blum.
Prosecutors say Hernandez targeted the youngster's father, Eric Galarza Sr., an admitted gang member who in 2006 agreed to work as a paid federal informant in exchange for having several of his own drug cases dismissed. Prosecutors claim Hernandez, who is a member of the same gang as Galarza Sr., fired multiple rounds from a semi-automatic weapon into the car that the victim, his parents, two younger siblings and aunt were riding in about 7 p.m. Oct. 7, 2011.
No one else was injured in the shooting, which authorities suggested was payback for Galarza informing on the gang.
Prosecutors concluded their case by playing a recording of a phone call Hernandez placed to his girlfriend from Cook County Jail, where he is being held without bond.
"I was in an (expletive) world. Forgive me, OK?" said Hernandez. "I (expletive) feel bad ... If you do end up leaving me, it's my own fault. I brought this on myself."
Elgin detective Tom Wolek, a longtime gang crime investigator, testified witness Cory Morgan identified Hernandez as the shooter during a physical lineup on Oct. 14, 2011, two days after police arrested Hernandez.
"She said she was 100 percent positive," Wolek said.
Morgan testified Monday that she saw Hernandez running from the scene. However, her partner Timothy Crenshaw -- who was with her on their porch at the time -- was unable to identify Hernandez.
Defense attorney Ralph Meczyk insisted police arrested the wrong man and that another gang member is responsible.
Testifying on behalf of the defense, Crenshaw said he heard gunshots and ran next door to where their daughter was playing. He testified he saw a man wearing a white T-shirt rounding the corner but he couldn't see the man's face.
Carlos Lopez, a co-worker of Hernandez, testified earlier that Hernandez asked to meet him that evening at Gameworks in Schaumburg. Lopez said he met Hernandez, his father and another man at the venue and that Hernandez gave him a gun to hold. Lopez also testified that Hernandez admitted to him that he shot at a guy but accidentally killed a kid. Defense attorneys suggested that police pressured Lopez by asking him to sign Miranda waivers, which no other witnesses signed, and intimating he could face accessory charges.