By Joel Warner
By Michael Roberts
By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Amber Taufen
By Patricia Calhoun
By William Breathes
She has known Danny Martinez all of her life. "Everybody liked him," she says. "Even when he got older and came over to my house, he was respectful, polite. You'd never know he was in a gang. He was always over at my dad's, who was like another father to him. But I think the money changed Danny--all that money from sellin' drugs. He always had wads of cash he'd throw around. If my dad didn't have any money, Danny'd whip out a few twenties and just give it to him.
"Money is power, and he and his brother, Antonio, had a lot of power on the streets. It's weird. They wanted respect, but the only way they got respect was through fear and guns--they always had guns on them."
Now fear and anger "has tore us all apart," she says of the extended family. "Just ripped us like someone stickin' a knife in your stomach. Brother not talkin' to brother. My dad wanted to take my little brother over to his grandmother's house, but she told him not to because it wasn't safe. Nobody goes to see each other anymore. It's like the kids don't even have grandparents."
Jolene's voice drops as she looks around to see who might be standing nearby. "And there's a contract out on my dad," she says quietly. "His own family turned their backs on him because he was talkin' to the police.
"But what could he do? What kind of choice did he have? He says he would die if he had to keep it to himself. He wasn't the one who made them do it...and that little girl needed peace. She didn't ask for what happened to her."
As Jolene starts to cry, her fiance wraps a protective arm around her shoulders. She shakes her head sadly as she explains that she, too, is afraid--the gang may want to get at her to shut up her father, or just to retaliate. She and Joe will probably have to move out of state in order to feel safe again.
"We have family here," she says, wiping at her eyes. "And it's expensive to move. Until we can afford it, we'll just have to watch out."
Jolene and Joe turn and walk through the security checkpoint. They head to the fifth floor, where they meet Ingrid Bakke, one of the prosecutors in the case, outside the courtroom.
After all that, Bakke tells them that they probably won't have to testify but that they should be available if they're needed. Relieved, the two hurry back to the elevators before Bakke can change her mind.
As Bakke turns and walks back into the courtroom where jury selection is under way, she passes a small Hispanic woman sitting on a wooden bench with two teenage boys. The woman's eyes are red and shiny from crying; the boys look defensive and frightened.
They are Frank Vigil's mother and brothers. "We don't want to comment," Sally Vigil says before a reporter can ask a question.
When it's your son, or your brother, sitting in the defendant's chair, you are expected to assume some share of the guilt. There must have been some lack of parental guidance...maybe even some genetic predisposition to evil. Everything about the trial reinforces that guilt. While members of the victim's family are comforted by victim advocates, given pillows to ease their time on the hard benches, you're left on your own to sit and stare at the back of your son or brother, lost in private thoughts. It was them, the bad ones, who led him astray. Please, God, let the jury understand that.
Finally the jury is seated. The lawyers will give their opening statements the next morning.
Sally Vigil and her boys stay close together as they move off down the hall. They look like they expect someone to attack them.
By the time Theresa gave birth to Antonio, two years after Danny Jr., the old neighborhood was beginning to lose its charm. Others thought so, too.
Her friend Norma had married her brother Oney and moved to Oregon. Her sister Patty, who'd always wanted more than the neighborhood could provide, decided she'd find it with Samuel Merced Quintana, Norma's brother.
Sam was the responsible one of the neighborhood boys, always working, trying to get ahead. He and Patty married when they were both sixteen and had Samuel Jr. a year after Danny was born. A daughter had followed a couple of years later, after they had moved out to the suburbs. Except for special family events, they rarely returned to the neighborhood.
Samuel Quintana Sr. had always wanted to be a Denver police officer but couldn't get on. There was an offer from the San Diego police, but Patty had a good job as a secretary and wouldn't leave. So he took a position with the Denver Sheriff's Department as a deputy at the jail.
Not everyone left the area around 27th and California, though. Sally stuck around and married Frank Vigil. All of Theresa's other friends were married and/or pregnant, and they'd go over to the playground at 25th and Stout and push their kids on the same swings they'd played on themselves just a few years before.