A jury took just a couple of hours last week to convict 29-year-old Jermaine Douglas of the execution-style killing of Brookfield resident Michael Smith in 2016 outside his Forest Avenue apartment building.
Following a four-day trial at the Maybrook courthouse on July 23, Douglas was found guilty of four counts of first-degree murder, each of which carries a prison sentence of between six and 30 years.
“The sentencing should be significant,” said former Brookfield Police Chief James Episcopo under whose watch the murder investigation was conducted. “We’re all hoping for a good outcome.”
Douglas is due back in court in front of Judge Geary Kull at 9 a.m. on Aug. 18, according to a spokesperson from the Cook County State’s Attorney. Sentencing could take place at that time or other motions could be introduced by Douglas’ counsel.
That the jury found Douglas guilty of four counts of first-degree murder in such short order points to the strength of the evidence collected by a police during their nearly year-long investigation.
“I don’t know there’s any verdict that can do so, but I hope this brings some peace to the families of Michael Smith to see this piece of it resolved,” said Brookfield Police Chief Michael Kuruvilla. “It was a tragedy.”
It was a complex investigation that relied on a mountain of digital evidence, including cellphone records and security camera video along with physical evidence obtained by police. The investigation likely would not have been as successful without the participation of the FBI, which provided the expertise to analyze much of the digital evidence.
Brookfield was also assisted by the west suburban Major Case Assistance Team, the DuPage County Felony Investigative Assistance Team, Chicago police and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
“There were a lot of folks on our end and a number of different agencies who did a lot of work putting that case together,” Episcopo said. “That was the outcome we were looking for. It’s time to be grateful for all the work everyone put in.”
In November 2016, Episcopo announced that police were charging three people with Smith’s murder. In addition to Douglas, police charged two men who were alleged to have planned the murder and hired Douglas to perform the hit.
Comfort K. Robinson and DeJuyon M. Johnican initially were also charged with first-degree murder. In May, both men pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of conspiracy to commit murder and each was sentenced to eight years in prison.
Because both Robinson and Johnican had been jailed for more than four years while awaiting trial, they were paroled immediately after being sentenced and spent no further time in state prison.
There was no plea deal for Douglas, however. Two days following Smith’s murder, police recovered the vehicle Douglas sat in as he drove up to Smith’s car as it sat parked on Forest Avenue and fired several rounds at point-blank range.
On the day he was killed, Smith was to have testified against Robinson, who was accused of being a felon in possession of a weapon during an altercation outside of a Chicago nightclub where Smith was working as a security guard on March 8, 2015.
Robinson’s bench trial for that offense on the morning of Jan. 27, 2016 was continued and Smith left the courthouse without having testified. As Smith parked his car in front of his building in the 3600 block of Forest Avenue, Douglas pulled up alongside in a blue hatchback and killed him.
“He destroyed this family,” Episcopo said of Douglas, referring to Smith’s widow and son, who was 3 years old at the time of the murder. “Their lives will never be the same.”