Judgment Day

As judges ponder the fates of Brandy DuVall's murderers, they must measure different shades of black.

May 10, 1999
"Now that the facts have been determined, the presumption of innocence is gone, and Francisco Martinez Jr. sits before you a convicted rapist and murderer."

Deputy District Attorney Ingrid Bakke catches the people gathered in the courtroom in mid-murmur, like a play's narrator just before the curtain rises. Those in her audience--the families and friends, the attorneys, the judges, the defendant and the curious--grow silent as they turn their eyes to her. Many already know Bakke's next line, having heard it just a few weeks ago:

"The court must now shift its focus from the crimes committed to the evils that have been suffered."

This is the fifth time Bakke has opened the prosecution's case against a member of the Deuce-Seven Bloods, who raped, tortured and murdered fourteen-year-old Brandy DuVall. In three weeks, it will have been exactly two years since the girl's savaged body was found next to Clear Creek a few miles up the canyon from Golden; it's been almost a year and a half since the first trial of one of her killers.

This is the second time Bakke has made her pitch to a three-judge panel that the death penalty be imposed for one of the killers. In April she uttered the same words at a hearing for Francisco's childhood friend and fellow Deuce-Seven member, Danny Martinez Jr.

Barring a conviction or sentence being overturned at the appellate level, this is the last time Ingrid Bakke will have to deliver a speech on behalf of Brandy DuVall. And for that, she is glad.

"Words fall short to describe the terror and the horror" of Brandy's last few hours, "what this man," she says, jabbing a finger toward the defendant, "did to a fourteen-year-old girl." A murder that was preceded by acts committed to "humiliate and torture Brandy...and satisfy the twisted whims of Francisco Martinez."

A slight shudder runs through Brandy's relatives, seated in the first pew behind the prosecution table; arms drape protectively around shoulders, as if preparing for impact. Here it comes again. In the spectator sections on both sides of the aisle, hands wipe at the first tears of the day.

Twenty-five-year-old Francisco displays no emotion as Bakke condemns him. His dark-brown eyes show neither anger nor denial nor bravado. Only occasionally does he glance at his accuser, and then he looks away again, as though he doesn't think this conversation has much to do with him.

Of all the gang members involved in Brandy's rape and murder, he has been portrayed as the most vicious and cold-blooded. Even Danny's lawyers labeled him "an evil man," as their own client--his friend--sat mute. Although he doesn't look particularly evil, some women in the spectator section claim they can see it in him. But there are women on the other side of the aisle--sisters, girlfriends, his wife--who say that's not their "Pancho"; his mother, Linda, grieves for him in the hall.

For two years, this drama has been filled with images of good and evil, of heaven and hell. Of angels and devils.

A large steel cross, erected by Brandy's family, stands at highway mile marker 269.6 in Clear Creek Canyon, where the gang stabbed and dumped Brandy's half-naked body on May 31, 1997. And many in the courtroom today recall the dusty image of outstretched wings on a fifth-floor courthouse window during Francisco's trial last August--surely left by a pigeon attempting to fly through the pane, but viewed as a sign by some leaving the courtroom. When they saw it, they crossed themselves.

The religious imagery started with Jose Martinez, the infamous "Uncle Joe," at whose Adams County house the gang members brutalized Brandy. When confronted, Martinez told the police that the young men who committed the acts "was possessed by the fuckin' devil." The only piece of physical evidence tying Brandy to that house and the gang was a prayer card that the girl's grandmother, Rose Vasquez, had given her, which Jose hid after the gang left with Brandy. The card depicted a hand punctured by a nail wound, with the inscription: See, I will not forget you. I have carved you in the palm of my hand.

The prosecution had seized on the theme. To explain to jurors the deals given to some of the gang members in exchange for their testimony, they'd relied on an old adage: "Crimes committed in hell do not have angels as witnesses." And without angels for witnesses, the only way the government could secure justice for Brandy was "to make deals with the devils."

They'd made their deals and then tried the three remaining defendants who neither asked for nor were offered plea bargains for the hell they put Brandy through. Frank "Little Bang" Vigil Jr., now seventeen years old and in prison for the rest of his life. Twenty-seven-year-old Danny "Bang" Martinez Jr., in prison for the rest of his life. And now, finally, Francisco "Pancho" Martinez Jr., who one way or the other will spend the rest of his life in prison...although if the prosecutors have their way, it will be a short stay.

When this hearing is over and the judges have rendered their opinion, there will be no more devils to deal with for the murder of Brandy DuVall. Instead, those who've lived with this case, who've spent two years in judicial purgatory, will be left to deal with their own private demons.

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