Dealing with the Devil

The Deuce-Seven Bloods spin out of control, ripping families apart--including their own.

Latecomers peer at the pews behind the prosecution, hoping space will miraculously open up. They glance nervously, even distastefully, at the rows behind the defense table where there are still a few seats left near Martinez's family...Everyone is aware of what happened after the Alejandro Ornelas verdict was read.

A deputy in plainclothes directs members of the press to sit in the first row between the defense table and Martinez's family and supporters, a row previously kept empty by court security. Behind the reporters, family members gasp as they try to hold back their fear. Many are red-eyed from crying or lack of sleep; they look around without hope. Several of the young women clutch babies who were not even born the last time their cousin/uncle/father "Pancho" Martinez was a free man.

Three deputies stand at the door next to the defense table through which prisoners are brought in. Two deputies stand by the jury door, and two more guard the public entrance.

Just before noon, Martinez is led into the courtroom in handcuffs, the shock belt bulging beneath his shirt. His appearance illicits a new round of cries from his family. He glances at them but gives no sign of recognition before he takes a seat at the defense table. He leans forward, propping his chin up with his right hand, a finger extended along his cheek.

All of the main players in the courtroom drama seem used up, their energies drained. At the prosecution table, investigators Al Simmons and Doug Moore slump in their seats, lost in their thoughts; the prosecutors occasionally speak softly to one another but for the most part seem content to watch spectators arrive.

At the defense table, Kaplan and Ridley sit between the attractive young woman and Martinez. Ridley scribbles notes. Kaplan just stares off into space.

Judge Villano enters the room and sits down. A few minutes later, the jury is escorted in. The seven women and five men take their seats--some look at Villano, some stare straight ahead, others glance curiously at the crowd.

Villano asks, "Members of the jury, have you arrived at a verdict in this case?"

The jury foreman answers, "We have."
The indictments are handed to Villano, who takes a few minutes to read through them. Only the tiniest of whimpers can be heard from Pancho's family. Everyone in the courtroom seems to be holding his breath.

At last Villano looks up from the papers and addresses the jurors. "Members of the jury, listen now while I read your verdicts in the case 97-CR1697...regarding the charges of murder in the first degree after deliberation and murder in the first degree felony murder, we the jury find Francisco Martinez Jr.--"

The word "guilty" is hardly out of the judge's mouth when the gallery behind Francisco Martinez erupts in despair.

"Noooo," his wife wails, and other members of the family join in. Their wracking sobs wash over the reporters sitting in the row directly in front of them.

A deputy moves to place himself between Martinez and the gallery, and the other deputies take up positions closer to the crowd. But this time there is no violence, just black, bottomless grief as the judge reads the verdicts on the other seven counts.

Second-degree kidnapping. Guilty. First-degree sexual assault. Guilty. Sexual assault on a child. Guilty.

Pancho drops his hand and bows his head, rapidly blinking his eyes. Then he gathers himself together, places his hand back on his chin, and sits without showing further emotion.

Conspiracy to commit first-degree murder after deliberation. Conspiracy to commit second-degree kidnapping. Conspiracy to commit first-degree sexual assault. Guilty. Guilty. Guilty.

When he finishes, Villano asks Kaplan if he would like the jury polled. Kaplan says "yes" just as Angela and Carl Metzger rush into the courtroom and take their seats in the front row. Villano polls the jurors, then thanks them and adds, "This was not a pleasant case to hear."

Francisco Martinez is ordered to stand and is handcuffed. "We love you, Pancho," family members yell. "We love you." Finally he looks back, tilting his chin ever so slightly and raising a hand as best he can. Then he quickly turns and heads out the door with his escort.

A few minutes later, Pancho's family members run through a gauntlet of television cameras and reporters. The women try to hide their faces with pillows.

Outside the victim assistance center on the first floor of the courthouse, Angela Metzger, with Carl at her side, holds up a photograph of Brandy. "I don't feel any better," she tells reporters. "It won't bring Brandy back. I know that she isn't in any pain, and it's my hope that what happened to her will help other little girls live...that this won't happen to them."

Angela says she has mixed feelings about whether Martinez should get the death penalty. "I don't really care, as long as he can't hurt anybody else," she says. "No parent should have to go through what we went through."

And will have to go through again.

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