The Final Judgment

Two years ago this week, Brandy DuVall was killed by members of the Deuce-Seven gang. For the past month, the courts have been deciding whether her murderers live or die.

So she had insisted that her family members go out of their way to be courteous to the other family. Hold doors open. Allow them to enter and leave the courtroom unimpeded. Even during this hearing, when her former husband stormed out of the courtroom, offended by the defense attorney's criticism of his influence as a father, she'd kept her focus. "This isn't about you and me, Dan," she'd lashed out at him. "This is about our son." And ever since, Danny's father had been quiet when he entered and left the courtroom.

At last Theresa will get to say what's in her heart, and she's been told she can do so at the podium without fear of cross-examination. "Not a day or night goes by without you all in my prayers," she tells Brandy's family. "I am tired of being strong and long to grieve with you."

She keeps it short, not wanting to say too much, and turns her attention to the panel. "Judge me with my son," she says. "I contributed to the problem." She is ready to sit down, but there's a surprise.

Prosecutor Bakke wants to question Theresa as a rebuttal witness, to contradict the testimony about her failings as a mother. Judge Anderson agrees, and a very frightened Theresa suddenly is sworn in and steps up into the witness stand.

Across the courtroom, Angela Metzger bends over and places her face in her hands. At the defense table, for the first time during this hearing, Danny looks visibly angry--at Bakke, the woman who wants to torment his mother.

"I apologize," Bakke says.
But Theresa is too petrified to respond. What if she says something that dooms her son? There is no helping it now...she'll have to answer as honestly as she can and pray she does no harm.

Bakke is counting on Theresa's honesty. In yet another ironic twist, it's the prosecution that's been defending Danny's family.

When Danny's aunt, Nancy Laes, had testified earlier about problems in her sister's household and life--the drugs and volatile relationship with her first husband--it was Bakke who got her to concede that the children were clean and well-cared for by the larger extended family. And that after Theresa kicked her drug habit, she had fought courageously, if futilely, to get her boys out of the gang.

While her nephew may have had a rough childhood, his aunt conceded, it was "not one that leads to this," not to rape and murder.

Now it's Theresa's turn to be rehabilitated. Under Bakke's questioning, she admits that she changed her lifestyle in order to help her sons.

"You tried to learn about gangs?" Bakke asks.
"You attended every neighborhood meeting to learn what you could?"
"That's correct."
"You got an apartment in Aurora to get your sons away from 2727 California?"
"Yes, I did."

"You placed yourself in a dangerous situation to get your sons away from a gang member's house?"

"I did. They got up and left."
The questioning goes on and on. Theresa warned Danny about the dangers. She kept warning him after her brother was shot at 2727 California and again after Raquel and her baby were in the house during a drive-by shooting.

She did her best to help Danny. She'd even made the fateful mistake of getting him into a drug rehabilitation center rather than sentenced to prison: He was on the run from the center when Brandy was killed.

"Is it true that Danny Martinez made choices that led him to where he is today?"

"He had his chances, just like Antonio?"
There it was. The heart of her family's tragedy. Two sons. One who made a conscious decision to do something more with his life. The other who had given up.

"Yes," says Theresa. Because it is the truth.

April 29, 1999
It's the third and final day of Danny's hearing. The defense begins by calling one of Francisco's former therapists, Stacy Pike, the one who told Clemens about Francisco's hobby of shooting people.

The defense contrasts that with two witnesses who speak on Danny's behalf. One is the teacher in Arkansas who encouraged him to get his GED. Nearly ten years later, she still remembers him. "I liked to teach, and Danny liked to learn," Ann Whitis says. He also talked with her about getting out of the gang lifestyle but said it was difficult back in his old neighborhood.

She and another teacher were so excited for Danny when he passed his GED that they went to find him. But he was gone, and she never saw him again--until coming to court today. She smiles at Danny, and he smiles back.

Danny had gone back to 2727 California, according to the next witness, juvenile probation officer Beverly Hobbs Porter. She had been Danny's probation officer on a drug case when she and Theresa came up with the idea of sending him to Arkansas to get him away from the gangs.

When Danny returned, though, she knew he was running with the Bloods again. This was about the time that he, Antonio and Pancho formed the Deuce-Seven subset of the Crenshaw Mafia Gangster Bloods.

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