Shots in the Dark

Prosecutors allowed Jamelle Swanson’s killer to walk. Swanson’s sister isn’t going so quietly.

Shots in the Dark

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Shuree Jefferson's beef with prosecutors over their failure to at least present the charges to the grand jury has led her to file a complaint with the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association. She's also megaphoning her displeasure into every available avenue: The family staged evening protests outside the Justice Center to draw eyes to the cause, and Jefferson has fired off letters to Mayor Frank Jackson, Prosecutor Bill Mason, and other local government brass. She's even trying to tap the nuclear option for civil rights offenses: Reverend Al Sharpton.

It's hard to tell whether the noise has broken through. When Scene initially contacted Cleveland Police about the homicide, a spokesman said the case file was closed. Days later, when Scene attempted to review the files related to the shooting, the police records department said the file was in fact still open and could not be provided to the public.

Calls to Zimmerman and Miles were not returned. When contacted for comment, prosecutor's office spokesman Ryan Miday cited the Castle Doctrine and other court decisions that state the right to self defense legally trumps other law. Questions about Jefferson's dealing with the office were not answered.

"The Cleveland Police Department and this office are always willing to review additional evidence presented," Miday wrote to Scene. Jefferson has also received indications the office is interested in additional statements.

Although the information gathered by Jefferson may dump ample doubt on the Castle Doctrine defense, it's another matter whether it could play inside a courtroom. In light of how the interviews were conducted, the statements could be considered to have been made under duress and therefore inadmissible in court. For the sake of legal legitimacy, witnesses must make their statements directly to authorities.

And that's been Jefferson's latest hurdle. On tape, Hershel Woods repeatedly says he's willing to go downtown and give police a new statement about the shooting. Jamelle Swanson's girlfriend, Nicole Woods, is also willing to alter her account, Jefferson says. But both have dropped off the map in recent weeks. Street talk says Woods has left town for North Carolina, where Sims may also be staying. Jefferson says every time she tries to make an appointment with the woman, she cancels at the last minute. (Scene made several unsuccessful attempts to interview Woods.)

To Jefferson, the recent reticence is easy to explain.

"Delvon is free now," she says simply. "They're afraid."

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