Azekah Jennings, a charismatic and caring attorney, died Sunday in Connecticut after a short illness, a coworker said. He was 57.
Jennings, who was born in the Virgin Islands, made a name for himself first as an assistant U.S. attorney in the U.S. Justice Department’s Virgin Islands offices and later on the mainland.
“I remember Zeke as one of the best, if not the best, prosecutors I’ve ever seen,” retired Superior Court Judge James Carroll said.
Carroll said Jennings had a way with jurors that resulted in convictions and took on cases that other attorneys wouldn’t touch.
According to Caroll, Jennings once successfully prosecuted a homicide case where there was no body to serve as evidence.
“He was never afraid to take on hard cases,” Carroll said.
While Jennings was well known for his work in the courtroom, Carroll said he also shone when it came to community outreach. He said Jennings started the Weed and Seed program that seeks to keep the territory’s youths out of trouble.
“He never forgot his roots in the Virgin Islands,” Carroll said.
Jennings received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Hartford in1980 and a law degree from the University of Connecticut School of Law in 1983.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Joycelyn Hewitt said that when Jennings started with the Justice Department in 1984, he rose up through the ranks, ending his Virgin Islands career in the St. Croix Justice Department office as executive assistant U.S. attorney.
She said in 2005, Jennings left the office to work in the Justice Department’s Community Relations Service, serving out of the Boston office.
“He was probably one of our best,” said Jennings’ Boston supervisor, Frank Amoroso. “He had a really good way of connecting with law enforcement and community groups, particularly with young people.”
Amoroso said the office does conflict resolution around civil rights issues, and Jennings was sent to Ferguson, Mo., after the riots surrounding the shooting death by a police officer of Michael Brown.
Nelson Jones, an assistant U.S. attorney at the Justice Department’s St. Thomas office, said Jennings was a dedicated individual who believed in young people.
“He was really invested in our kids,” Jones said.
Alphonso Andrews, another assistant U.S. attorney at the Justice Department, said he and Jennings tried some cases together.
“He was a dynamic individual, intelligent and full of energy,” Andrews said, adding that the territory lost one of its best.
Andrews, like others, spoke of Jennings’ efforts in helping the territory’s youths.
“He was trying to get them to be on the right path,” Andrews said.
Jim Hurd, who once served as U.S. Attorney in the Virgin Islands, called Jennings a go-to guy for anything new and innovative.
“Give Zeke the word and he was on it immediately,” Hurd said, noting that Jennings set up a mentoring program.
Additionally he said that Jennings was a fantastic trial lawyer because he connected with people.
Sen. Kenneth Gittens sent his condolences.
“Attorney Jennings was a quiet man with a big heart and he fell into a most fitting profession where he could help people with his good natured spirit. He believed in humanity and fought for people despite their color, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, religion or disability,” Gittens said.
Funeral arrangements are pending.