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.

And so Kaplan and his colleagues made their arguments that Francisco's abused, violence-marred childhood pushed him into a gang and down a path of violence.

On a less philosophical note, Kaplan also argued that there was no proof beyond the questionable word of Sammy "Zig Zag" Quintana Jr. that Francisco was the man who actually wielded the knife and stabbed Brandy 28 times. The jury had not been asked to determine if they believed that Pancho was the so-called triggerman or just one of many culpable in the girl's death, he noted. And so to single him out for lethal injection would be unfair.

But Sargent now counters that the jury believed Quintana--and so should the panel of three judges. The question, he says, is what punishment fits Francisco's crime and character.

"By whatever combination of forces brought Francisco Martinez to be the man he is," Sargent continues, "he is an absolutely dangerous man...All you've got to do is listen to him if you want to know what makes him tick, what he is about.

"The experts hired by the defense--and I don't mean to belittle their attempts to explain him--but they carefully avoided asking the direct question 'Why did you sodomize Brandy with the broom?' because they knew the answer.

"You know the answer. It is in his psychological makeup that he enjoys hurting other people."

The courtroom feels lopsided. Francisco's family and friends--including at least two girlfriends and a wife who have all borne his children--had filled the second and third pews behind the defense table for most of the eight-day hearing. (For security reasons, only defense-team investigators and defense attorneys who dropped by to watch the proceedings had been allowed in the first pew.) But today just Francisco's mother, Linda, clad in a T-shirt, shorts and dark glasses, and one younger woman are seated on Pancho's side.

Behind the prosecution table, the second and third rows are packed with members of the press, along with employees of the DA's office and court personnel who want to witness the last great battle in one of the most horrific cases in anyone's memory. The row closest to the prosecution is filled with members of Brandy's family, sitting as close as possible to one another, holding hands, some resting their heads on nearby shoulders.

For the past two years, this has been their life, too. Day after day, week after week, sitting on hard wooden benches that seem designed for discomfort; the thin pillows handed out by victims' advocates provide scant comfort.

But what could comfort them? Physical inconveniences pale beside the ordeal of listening again and again and again and again and again to how members of the Deuce-Seven Bloods raped, sodomized, tortured, humiliated, tormented and, finally, stabbed Brandy, leaving her to die alone in the dark. As they listened to different young men recall ad nauseam Brandy's screams, her pleas for her life, they were powerless to stop the tears or stifle sobs.

And then to hear defense lawyers try to lay the blame on one of the others...or contend that their clients were too drunk to be accountable, or too frightened of other gang members to stop the insanity.

In March the family sat through the sentencing hearings for the prosecution witnesses, who pleaded for mercy when they'd shown none to Brandy. Having now found religion and a conscience, they apologized to the relatives of the girl they'd treated like a piece of meat--one even biting into her breast like an animal. And her family was supposed to forgive them?

But none beat the excuses given at the death-penalty hearings. The first had been for Danny Martinez Jr., the reputed leader of the Deuce-Seven, just a few weeks before. Danny was no relation to Francisco, but as Danny's sister had testified, they were more like brothers than biological brothers.

And now here was Francisco, the man accused not only of stabbing Brandy but of being the most brutal during the three to four hours of torture that preceded her death. A man described by prosecutor Randall as "ultra-evil." Francisco, too, had apologized, just before closing arguments, saying Brandy "did nothing to deserve what happened." As if that was even a question. But of course, Francisco had also avoided making any admission beyond "my participation" in the events that night. After all, there are appeals to consider.

For Brandy's mother, Angela Metzger, it was particularly hard to listen to the defense teams talk about Danny's and Francisco's mothers. She'd heard enough mean comments about her own parenting--What was a fourteen-year-old girl doing on Federal Boulevard at midnight?--to wish no more anguish on those women. They would have to live with the guilt of hindsight. It was a twisted irony that the prosecutors had tried to point out that those other mothers weren't as bad as their sons' lawyers made them out to be.

Then there were the psychologists hired to examine Francisco, although not so carefully as to ask him what possibly could have been going through his head that night. "The mental-health mitigator," Sargent says, referring to the defense's arguments used to combat the prosecution, "tells you what to make of this man in this state of mind. But it is only an excuse.

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