By Joel Warner
By Michael Roberts
By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Amber Taufen
By Patricia Calhoun
By William Breathes
Jose Martinez's role bothered Canney tremendously. So many adults could have stopped what happened to Brandy DuVall. The defendant's family, by keeping him away from bad influences. Even the victim's family, by insisting that a fourteen-year-old girl belonged at home in her bed instead of wandering the streets--although he couldn't say that in court without inviting a backlash from the jury.
But Uncle Joe was there. He should have stopped them.
Sammy Quintana was another gem. Admitting to some things but making everyone else look worse than himself. "The prosecution says they'll be asking for 96 years. What they forgot to tell you," Canney says, letting a hint of sarcasm slip into his voice, "was he could get as little as 48."
Quintana, he notes, had killed two girls. "In the summer of 1996, Sammy Quintana and a cohort set out to kill a drug snitch, Salvino Martinez," he explains. "Instead, they shot an innocent girl, Venus Montoya."
Canney knew he would have to watch overplaying Quintana's gang activities. That could backfire, since Frank had hung around with these guys voluntarily. Circumstances again. The kid of a single mom. Where was he going to find someone to look up to for strength and protection? It sure as hell wasn't the high-school basketball coach.
The other prosecution witnesses, Canney says, are liars, all liars. When they had to point a finger to save themselves, they pointed it at Frank Vigil, the one they weren't afraid of.
And there are two important witnesses the jurors will not hear from because they are also defendants, Canney points out. Danny Martinez Jr., "the biggest boss," and Francisco Martinez, "who was sicker than anyone can imagine." Bang, Pancho and Zig Zag were all in their mid-twenties and larger than his client. "Frank Vigil could not have stopped anyone."
"You remember that in voir dire, I told you that my great fear was the sheer horror of what happened to Brandy DuVall would make you want to take it out on someone," Canney says, laying it on thick now. "I trust you will not take it out on an innocent sixteen-year-old, who did not commit any crimes."
Antonio "Boom" Martinez sits on the porch of 2727 California, a little white house with green trim, fondly looking over the neighborhood that he, his brother and Pancho claimed as their own. A bastion of Bloods in the middle of a sea of Crips, as he remembers it.
"I love hanging out over here," he says. "I know we did a lot of bad shit. But I have a lot of good memories about the way things were."
Twenty-three-year-old Antonio is short, barrel-chested and thick-shouldered; his dark hair has been shorn to a boot-camp stubble. Considering his tough reputation on these streets, his face can be surprisingly soft, with large, doe-like eyes, long lashes and a smile as white and perfect as a full moon.
But when he's angry, or simply recalling an event that made him angry, those eyes turn hard, almost brittle with suggested violence. The smile may remain, but it loses its warmth and gains a ferocity.
Maybe this face is a mask, something he puts on now that he's chosen to go defenseless in a world where some are still gunning for him.
Antonio's hands, too, are softer than you'd expect for a street gangster. But then, he's an artist, and his hands are his tools. When he talks about his wilder days, he holds his arms akimbo, his palms up and slightly curled as if loosely holding handguns. A gangster pose. He slips easily into gang slang. Profane. Arrogant. More of the hooked-on-ebonics of black gangs than the singsong lilt of the old cholo Mexican gangs.
But when he talks about his art, or his daughter or girlfriend, or what he wants to do with his life, he is well-spoken and engaging. Confidence replaces arrogance. As he says with what his mother calls his Kool-Aid grin, "I can be pretty charming when I want to--especially with the girls."
He's only a few months shy of graduating from the Colorado Institute of Art. As soon as he's out, he hopes to leave the state and its memories, good and bad, and head to a city further west, where a friend has promised to set him up in a state-of-the-art tattoo studio.
Antonio still considers himself a Bloods gang member; he's just no longer committing crimes. He's a hardworking (two jobs), tax-paying citizen with big plans. He's getting on with life--but he can't leave all of the memories behind.
His earliest are of being with his older brother, Danny. Always together, through thick and thin.
Once, when they were living with their mother and Bill Rollins in a California apartment complex, Antonio was standing next to his brother while Danny threw rocks into the complex's whirlpool, clogging the drain. The manager appeared and, seizing the boys by their thin arms, dragged them home. Their stepfather apologized and said it wouldn't happen again. Then he spanked both boys.
Although he'd had no part in the rock-throwing, Antonio wouldn't snitch on his brother to escape punishment. "That's the way we were," Antonio says. "We always took our lickings together." Except this time.