2 Teenagers Explore Brutal Evironment of the Projects in 'Remorse'

Article excerpt

Byline: Ted Cox

"How can you make sense out of senseless things?" LeAlan Jones said. "I wish I didn't have to do it. A crime like this I wish I didn't have to report on."

Jones, a 16-year-old junior at Martin Luther King Jr. High School, and Lloyd Newman, a 17-year-old junior at Phillips High School, are childhood friends and neighbors at the Ida B. Wells housing development on the city's South Side. Three years ago, they attracted nationwide recognition for "Ghetto Life 101," a National Public Radio documentary they did about living in the neighborhood.

When 5-year-old Eric Morse was pushed from a 14th-floor window at the Ida B. Wells projects by a pair of preteen kids late in 1994, Jones and Newman were as shaken about the incident as anyone else.

That story, too, attracted national attention, as it was found the two killers, ages 10 and 11, had murdered Morse because he had refused to steal candy for them.

But Jones and Newman also realized they were uniquely positioned to report on the story. They had kept in touch with David Isay, the New York-based radio producer who had selected them as the subjects for "Ghetto Life 101," and Jones pitched him a new documentary on the Morse incident.

Outfitted again with tape recorders and headphones, they roamed the projects looking for answers to a story without any clear answers, lessons or morals.

The result is "Remorse: The 14 Stories of Eric Morse," a compelling and poignant hourlong documentary that airs at 3 p.m. Thursday on WBEZ 91.5-FM as part of NPR's "All Things Considered."

And if you thought you already knew everything worth knowing about Morse's death and the two boys who killed him, think again.

"The media, they did their jobs," Jones said, sitting down along with Newman last Friday at 'BEZ. "But we can do the job even better."

Or, as Newman puts it in "Remorse," as the two begin their reporting in the wake of a media frenzy: "The cameras and the reporters left, and we were still here."

They did the legwork mainstream reporters were reluctant to do, knocking on doors at the Ida B. Wells projects in search of people who knew any of the three kids involved.

"Remorse" is told in sort of an audio verite style, with Jones and Newman describing their surroundings and the interview subjects in a matter-of-fact way. Unexpected elements of humor creep in.

"Walking around the neighborhood with our equipment, everyone figures we must be rap singers," Newman says.

"We can't rap," Jones explains to some people teasing them on the street. "We're country singers. We sing country-and-western music."

Their inexperience, however, paid dividends. Because they were barely more than kids themselves, Jones and Newman won the trust of Morse's playmates, as well as the classmates of the two boys who killed him.

One girl says she believes the incident must have been an accident. …