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Father of Slain Yale Student Feels Compassion Toward City

May 24, 1993

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) _ He was a news editor of his school paper and an All-American in lacrosse during high school. He commanded respect as vice president for discipline of the student council.

By his sophomore year at Yale University, he was a promising scholar and lacrosse player, the fourth in his family to attend the Ivy League school.

On Monday, Christian Prince’s class graduated in Yale’s 292nd commencement. But he was only present in the memory of classmates, who remembered him as a good-natured, friendly young man before he was shot to death at age 19 in a robbery attempt near campus.

His father, Edward, does not bear any ill will toward Yale. And he says he has only compassion for New Haven, a city of 130,000 where guns and crime steal sons from parents on a regular basis.

At the two trials of the teen-ager accused of shooting Christian Prince through the heart, the Prince family heard testimony that ″13- to 15-year old kids could get their hands on guns when they had a beef with someone.″

″That’s just a scary portrait of the inner city,″ Prince, of Chevy Chase, Md., said in a telephone interview from his law office in Washington, D.C.

″I find it very difficult to sit down after the fact and blame people,″ Prince said.

″I can blame the fact that guns are so prevalent in society.″

His son, a history major, was walking back to his off-campus apartment in the early hours of Feb. 17, 1991, when he was killed.

His death was one of 34 homicides in New Haven in 1991.

But it was a shock for the university. Yale students were used to regular reports of muggings around campus, but Prince was the first student from the school to be killed in 16 years in New Haven.

James Duncan Fleming, a teen-ager with ties to a city gang, was charged in the killing based on a lengthy statement given by one of his friends to detectives. The friend said Fleming shot Prince after he willingly gave up his wallet.

But the friend recanted on the witness stand. He said police had bullied him into indentifying Fleming.

Fleming was convicted of conspiracy to commit robbery but found innocent of murder. He received a nine-year prison sentence, but is free on bond while he appeals.

State’s Attorney Michael Dearington, the prosecutor who twice tried and failed to get a conviction in the killing, said his decision to try the case even though the state had no physical or forensic evidence was ″no reflection of the fact that it was a Yale student.″

″There’s not a day that goes by that we don’t try homicides where the likelihood of conviction is not strong, and usually, unfortunately, it’s a black victim. The black mother out there who loses a 17-year-old son in a drive-by shooting has just as much to lose,″ he said.

Edward Prince said a conviction would not have made it any easier to deal with his son’s death.

″We had a family unit of five - that’s been destroyed,″ he said. ″Now we’re a unit of four. The loss is the thing that makes it difficult. The outcome of the trial doesn’t bring Christian back.″

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