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.

"It only lessens the blame if it substantially impairs his ability to recognize right from wrong...We've got to, if we have any system of laws, start with a basic premise of free will. That we are responsible. We are able to make choices. And we are responsible for choices we make, both good and bad."

Walking over to a large black board where the defense has created a timeline showing how Francisco's unhappy childhood impacted his monstrous adulthood, Sargent points to several photographs of the defendant as an infant and boy. "I don't mean to demean or belittle what Francisco Martinez may have gone through as a child," he says.

"I have sympathy for this child of one or three or eight who may have seen more than any child should be exposed to...And I have sympathy for that child who saw too much, perhaps.

"But again, as sympathetic as you may be for that three-, six-, ten-year-old boy, that's not who stands before you today. In between those early years lay years of intervention, years of alcohol counseling, years of intensive individual mental-health therapy.

"We could hope that he could be given more programs when he was little...But it's not society's fault because we didn't offer him enough programs. It is his fault. He owes us something as well. That he failed to learn, failed to change his behavior, is not our fault. He has to be held accountable for those decisions he made.

"What role does sympathy play?" Sargent asks. "You're asked to feel sorry for what he experienced in his life."

The prosecutor pulls out a book written by psychiatrist Willard Gatlin, in which Gatlin laments the aftermath of the murder of a young woman named Bonnie Garland.

"When one person kills another," Sargent quotes, "there is an immediate revulsion at the nature of the crime. But in a time so short as to seem indecent to the members of the family, the dead person ceases to exist as an identifiable figure.

"To those individuals in the community of goodwill and empathy, warmth and compassion, only one of the key actors in the drama remains with whom to commiserate, and that is always the criminal.

"The dead person ceases to be a part of everyday reality. She ceases to exist. She is only a figure in a historic event. And we inevitably turn away from the past towards the ongoing reality, and the ongoing reality is the criminal.

"He usurps the compassion that is justly the victim's, and he will steal the victim's constituency along with her life.

"Don't let that happen. He does not deserve your sympathy. He does not deserve your compassion. He doesn't deserve your mercy. And most of all, he does not deserve your leniency."

Sargent closes the book and picks up a photograph. He holds it up as he approaches the judges. "Your compassion," he tells them, "should be justly reserved for this fourteen-year-old girl. This little girl whose life he stole.

"And," he says turning toward the pews behind him, "for the family...he left behind with his actions. Imagine the pain that they feel every day. As painful as it was to listen to them in the few minutes they described what her loss has been to them, and how they feel...how that tears them apart...Imagine how they live with that every single day, and will until they die.

"Those are the people who deserve your compassion, your goodwill," Sargent says, then points to Francisco. "Not this man.

"There is no other choice but to give him the ultimate punishment, and that is the sentence of death."

For a moment, the courtroom is absolutely silent. Then a sob escapes from Brandy's mother--a brokenhearted reminder that for some, this will never be over.

A little before midnight on May 30, 1997, fourteen-year-old Brandy DuVall waited at a bus stop at South Federal Boulevard and Florida Avenue for a ride back to her grandparents' home. She was wearing a bright-red Chicago Bulls jersey bearing the number of her favorite player, Michael Jordan.

It was the shirt, a favorite of the Bloods gang, that attracted the five young men in the car that circled the block and came back to where Brandy stood. The driver of the car, David "Baby G" Warren, and his brother, Maurice, aka "Trap," were members of a small subset of the much larger Crenshaw Mafia Gangster Bloods known as the Deuce-Seven. With them were Jacob "Smiley" Casados, a gang wannabe, and two others whose roles in this tragedy were minimal.

Why Brandy got in the car that night would remain an unanswered question. Was it voluntary? Was she abducted? Was she offered a ride home? Did she accept an invitation to a party? That's what the gang members would claim, although few believed them.

They took Brandy to a small house in Adams County, near Federal at 3165 Hawthorne. The house was rented by Jose Martinez Jr., aka "Uncle Joe," who was sleeping in a bedroom with his son and granddaughter when they brought Brandy in.

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