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Judgment Day

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

She knew he was a gang member. For one thing, he had tattoos proclaiming that fact all over his body. But he didn't bring the gang over or use gang lingo around her. In fact, he became something of a school project for her...firsthand insight into a street criminal.

In late April 1997, Nicole learned about the affair, "which opened a can of worms." A few days later, Gina came home to find a nervous Francisco pacing around. He said the police were looking for him because of a shooting...the Pedro Medina incident.

After his mother called to say the police had been by her house looking for him, Francisco left. Gina didn't see him again for a couple of weeks, but he called plenty. Only this time, the nice-guy routine was missing. If she didn't answer the telephone, she says, he left "crude messages," such as "Who you out fucking? Bitch, where are you?"

On the evening of May 26, she was home alone with her son, asleep on the couch, when Francisco broke in. He straddled her and began punching her in the face and strangling her. "It was 'bitch' this, 'bitch' that," she recalls.

Gina blacked out. When she came to, her nightshirt had been torn off her body and was in shreds. Francisco was still in the home; when she asked, he let her see that her son was all right. But soon he left the apartment and got into a car with other young men.

Gina says she drove to Francisco's mother's house. "Look what your son did to me," she told her. But although her face was bruised and swollen and there were obvious finger marks around her throat, Linda "was not supportive...she said the bruise on my throat looked like hickeys to her."

But the cops believed Gina Ynostrosa.
Now Francisco was on the run for assaulting her as well. But he continued to call, asking what he had done that was so bad she felt she had to betray him.

Later, when she heard about his possible involvement in the killing of Brandy DuVall, she'd asked Francisco about it. "He said, 'Fuck that bitch. She deserved what she got.'"

"Did he say whose fault it was?" Randall asks.
"Her own," Gina replies. "He seemed bitter and angry about it."
On cross-examination, Kaplan points out that before the assault, Francisco was "trying to be a better person." Gina agrees. He was good with her son, she says, and often sent her flowers.

On redirect, Randall asks, "So Francisco was capable of behaving well?"
"Sure," she says.
"And he was also capable of assaulting you?"
"Correct."

The boyish-looking Randall practically blushes as he asks if Francisco made any peculiar sort of sexual requests.

"On a few occasions, he asked for anal sex," she replies. But she wouldn't agree to it.

Randall asks if Francisco's demeanor changed after she told the police about the assault. Her former lover became more gang-like, Gina concedes, and his language was filled with gangster talk. He reminded her that he had taken her address book following the assault. "He said, 'I know where your family and friends live. Make this hard for me, and I'll hurt you or someone you care about.'"

She pauses, then concludes, "He scared the shit out of me."

Once more. Just get through this one more time, Angela Metzger thinks, as the prosecutor announces that Brandy's mother would "like to make a statement to the court."

"Had to" would be more accurate. How can she "like" baring her soul, exposing wounds that never get a chance to heal before they're ripped open again? "Like" does not describe the feeling of standing in front of strangers, unable to control her tears, choking over the words of her misery.

Somehow, somewhere, Angela Metzger always finds the strength to do what must be done. She had bared, ripped and cried through three murder trials and half a dozen sentencings of the young men who had raped, tormented and killed her daughter. But it was not something she wanted to do--not even for revenge.

When the morning of each new trial or sentencing arrived, she only wished she could stay home, cloistered as she was most of the days between court appearances. She didn't want to see people. Or talk to them. She wanted them all to go away and leave her to her grief.

She wanted Brandy...but that wasn't going to happen.
Now her obligation was to bear witness. So Angela would get up, dress and head to the Jefferson County courthouse to listen one more time to what members of the Deuce-Seven Bloods gang had done to her little girl.

Then it would be the defense lawyers trying to excuse what had happened, blaming childhoods of abuse, bad neighborhoods, peer pressure, too much alcohol and testosterone...and, of course, negligent parents. They'd argue that the "tragic incident"--or some other generic term that blew past the reality of what was done to Brandy--was someone else's fault. Not their client's.

In the two years since she'd identified Brandy's body on the coroner's table--Wake up, baby. Wake up.--this was all that remained of Angela's life.

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