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 loved Michael Jordan and wanted to be like him," she says. "Her father, who lives in Phoenix, bought it for her."
Didn't she know that Bloods wore red? That Chicago Bulls jerseys and jackets were a favorite of the gang?
"I know," she replies. But Brandy wore it only because of Michael and because red was the color of her birthstone.
Angela doesn't get a chance to explain that shortly before her death, Brandy had complained to her mother that she couldn't wear her favorite color in public because of the gangs. And Angela had told her to wear what she wanted. If you can't wear red or blue or purple or whatever, then the gangs have really taken over.
Angela knew now that she was wrong. It wasn't safe. And although she will have to live with that for the rest of her life, it isn't something she's allowed to tell the jury.
There are so many things she would like to tell the jurors. Especially how much her daughter had meant to her. After her son, Tim, was born, Angela wasn't supposed to have any more children. But she wanted a daughter so desperately that she "sneaked" another pregnancy.
It was a difficult delivery, and the doctor opted to put her under. When she woke, she asked her then-husband about the sex of the child. "A girl," he said.
"Is she beautiful?" Angela asked.
"Yes," he answered. Then she passed out. When she woke up, she asked the same questions.
A baby girl...and yes, she was beautiful.
In her opening statement, prosecutor Ingrid Bakke had again described Angela as being in a "transition period" when Brandy died. She and her husband, Carl, had separated, but she'd secured a good new job, and Angela and Brandy were going to move out of the home of her adoptive parents, Rose and Paul Vasquez, the very next day into a place of their own. Nothing much, a converted, one-bedroom motel room...but it had a tiny kitchen and a pool. It represented a fresh start.
They were "more friends than mother-daughter," Bakke had said, adding that Brandy was an independent girl. Bakke had to say something, in answer to the unspoken question that stuck like an icepick in Angela's heart: What was a fourteen-year-old girl doing at a bus stop on South Federal Boulevard a few minutes before midnight?
Angela wanted to answer the question: Brandy was trying to get home from her friend Patrice Bowman's, as she had many times before. She didn't have to take the bus. She could have called her brother for a ride. She could have called her grandparents or uncle. But she was an independent girl who didn't want to trouble her family when the bus would drop her off just a couple of blocks from her grandparents' home.
The prosecutors had warned her early on that they wouldn't be able to defend Brandy's memory from everything its own witnesses would say about her, although Bakke did admonish the jurors in her opening that "this isn't about her lifestyle, but the rape torture, kidnapping and murder of Brandy."
But the girl they would describe was not the girl Angela knew. The girl she knew was an honor-roll student who agonized over a single B when all her other grades were A's. The girl she knew was not a virgin, but she still asked a lot of innocent questions about sex and didn't understand the promiscuity she saw on television shows. The girl she knew was so shy about her body that she wouldn't wear a swimsuit to the pool, or a dress to school, or even shorts that showed too much leg. The girl she knew wouldn't wear mascara.
Angela didn't have many answers to the questions she knew she would be hearing--and she blamed herself that they had to be asked at all. She didn't know why her daughter got in the car with those boys. Or why she allowed the man sitting at the defense table to strip her naked and carry her to a back bedroom.
Was she offered a ride home? Was she given more drugs and liquor than her small body could handle? At what point did she realize she was in way over her head?
And was what the prosecution witnesses were saying true? Or were they trying to minimize their involvement by claiming that, at least at first, Brandy had been a willing participant?
Angela would never know the answers. The only person in the world she could trust to tell her the truth was dead. Wake up, baby. Wake up.
The courtroom is packed. The man accused of raping and stabbing her daughter has many supporters on his side of the aisle. A baby cries among them. Otherwise, the room is quiet except for Angela's voice and that of prosecutor Randall.
He asks her about the last time she saw Brandy alive. She can feel the emotions building as she describes her daughter reaching in the car to hug her.