Antonio Martinez negotiates his way through a maze of boxes scattered across the living room of his small apartment as a massive stereo system pulsates with gangsta rap. Except for the stereo, he's almost packed--and ready to get the hell out of Denver.
The night before, his mother threw him a party at the old family home. 2727 California. It's not theirs anymore, but the new owners were gracious enough to allow one last hurrah in honor of Antonio's June 1998 graduation from the Colorado Institute of Art.
Now he's laboring under a haze of too much tequila. Antonio isn't much of a drinker, hasn't been since he gave up gangbanging nearly five years ago. Even in his wilder days, he didn't like losing control to alcohol...not like Danny and Panch and the rest...
"I was raised in this so-ci-et-ty," Martinez raps along with Tupac Shakur, who was gunned down in 1996.
"So they-ah's no way you can 'spect me to be a perfect person..."
Antonio's round head bobs with the beat. He strikes his gangster pose--arms out to the side, hands curled around the grips of imaginary pistols. He's wearing the uniform: baggy T-shirt and knee-length shorts hanging halfway down his butt.
"Life made us crazy," Antonio says after the song is over. "Life made us this way." He thinks for a moment, then adds, "And rap music.
"Coming from where I come from...I can relate to that shit. Tupac. Snoop Doggy Dog. They're successful, and they been around gangs and in prison and shit...and they ain't nobody's good role models.
"I don't understand these kids in the suburbs who say they're into rap music and wanna be gangsters. What do they know? My mama didn't buy me no new car when I was sixteen. I didn't get to sleep safe in my pajamas at my parents' home in the country.
"To tell you the truth, I resent them comin' to my 'hood and trying to act like me. It's a good way for them to catch a hot one in the ass, know what I mean?"
Despite his hangover, Antonio has to keep packing and cleaning. He's leaving this evening for a new life in a city where nobody knows him. Not the cops. Not the gangs. Only a friend and fellow art-school graduate with whom he'll be opening a high-end tattoo shop, putting his drawing skills to use.
Things are changing, not just for Antonio "Boom" Martinez, but for all of the members of the Deuce-Seven Crenshaw Mafia Gangster Bloods. He's escaping. Most of the others who made up the core group--including his brother, Danny "Bang" Martinez Jr., Francisco "Pancho" Martinez, Frank "Little Bang" Vigil Jr., Sammy "Zig Zag" Quintana Jr. and Alejandro "Speed" Ornelas--are not. They're doomed, brought down by an insanity that ate them from within.
Alejandro and Frank have already been tried for murder and convicted: 22-year-old Alejandro for his part in the July 1996 shooting of nineteen-year-old Venus Montoya; seventeen-year-old Frank for the May 1997 rape, torture and murder of fourteen-year-old Brandaline Rose DuVall. They will both serve the rest of their lives in prison. No parole.
Pancho faces a death-penalty trial in late August for the DuVall slaying. Danny's trial for the same crime is set for later in the fall; the Jefferson County district attorney hasn't yet said if he will seek the death penalty in Danny's case.
Antonio scowls. "And all because of snitches," including his cousin, Sammy "Zig Zag" Quintana Jr., who has pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in both cases in order to avoid a potential death sentence and is now a star witness for the prosecution.
That's the way Antonio sees it. But a moment later, he concedes that the gang was already coming apart. Things were spinning out of control. Danny was "falling-down-in-the-mud" drunk most of the time; Pancho was getting more and more aggressive.
By the time Venus Montoya was murdered, the Deuce-Seven's heyday--of fine hotel suites and nice cars, of bigtime drug deals and rolls of cash the size of fists--was over. Dismantled by internecine warfare with other gangs and nearly constant pressure from the police.
Antonio was smart enough to see that it was only going to get worse, and he got out. The others, well, they saw no out for themselves. "Or maybe," he says softly, "they didn't want an out if all it meant was no place to go."
No one made getting out easy for Antonio--including Antonio himself. He'd been suspended and expelled from school, sometimes for good reason, sometimes not; he'd spent a year in Lookout Mountain after shooting a Crip; and there'd been other charges.
Lynn had been the counselor who'd helped Antonio at Lookout, and then, as head of the local Amer-I-Can program, he'd helped him again. In the gang group at Lookout, Lynn had talked to kids like Antonio and Pancho about taking responsibility. The Amer-I-Can program was an extension of the same message.
It had gotten through to Antonio. He'd even had custody of his young daughter, Patricia, while he was going to art school and asked Lynn to help him get a job in order to provide for her--and meet the conditions of a deferred sentence on a drug charge.
But in the long run, what he got from Lynn was better than a job. It was a new way of looking at how he arrived at decisions that either got him into trouble or helped him stay out of it.
"Amer-I-Can gives you the idea that if you don't like where you're at, go somewhere else," Antonio says, as he scrubs dishes and loads them in the dishwasher. "It says there's always more than one option and points out how if you're sitting in a cell or laying in a casket, it was probably because of a bad decision you made days ago.
"Lonnie didn't lecture about right and wrong. He talked about living with the consequences of whatever decision you make. No blaming it on somebody else."
The program's doctrine of personal responsibility was an antidote to the "all for one" rhetoric of the gangs he'd been hearing since he was twelve years old. There is no "we," there is only "I." No "my homeboys did this or said that." Only what "I" do or say.
It took a long time for the antidote to take hold. Antonio still lapses into the thinking that captivated him for so long, although not nearly as much as he used to. He can laugh one minute about a gang rape--with a nervous, I can't believe we used to do that sort of shit giggle--and the next minute rush to a back bedroom to take care of his girlfriend's invalid son.
The child was born without the part of the brain that controls motor functions. He is wheelchair-bound, helpless. Antonio, the (formerly) antisocial, violent gangster, works with the boy to understand what it is he wants, gently wiping his face and caressing his head.
Antonio lost custody of his daughter when her mother wanted her back--after he'd raised her for two years. Letting Patricia go was one of the roughest times of his rough life. He'd accept the responsibility of raising her again in a heartbeat.
A little later, four-year-old Patricia is brought to the apartment by Antonio's sister, Raquel, to say goodbye. She wants to know if she can take Snacks, a Cabbage Patch doll, that's at the apartment for when she spends the night.
No, Antonio says. The doll goes with him and will be waiting for her when she comes to visit.
"You know I love you," he says. His eyes are moist as he demands and receives a hug. "I love you," she murmurs back. He watches her leave with some apprehension, knowing that the world can be a dangerous place for girls.
He's reminded others of that. After Antonio graduated from the Amer-I-Can program, Lynn paid him to teach it at a middle school. Lynn was impressed with how much time he put into the assignment, staying late to play basketball or just talk with the kids. He also noted that Antonio didn't come into the classroom telling war stories about his days with the gang...but the kids found out who he was as soon as they talked to their older brothers and sisters. They'd come back to class the next day, their eyes wide, suddenly respectful. You didn't tell us you was Boom!
He wouldn't deny it, but he pointed out the price he'd paid: "I can't go to the mall with my little girl without looking over my shoulder. I can't go to a concert without taking six or seven other guys. And if somebody comes after me, I might have to kill him...and that would ruin my life."
One day, a thirteen- or fourteen-year-old girl, the most disruptive kid in the class, was bragging to her classmates about how she would be hanging out on Federal Boulevard, going to parties with older guys. She tossed around the names of known gang members like they were her best friends.
Antonio brought her up short. "One of these times you're gonna get in a car with the wrong guy," he said. "It might be some of my friends or someone just like the way we were...It's gonna get rough, you're gonna get scared...and you ain't gonna make it."
The girl sat still, blinking and swallowing hard as Antonio dropped the kind smile and soft voice he'd used as their teacher. She saw the ferocity and hardness that had made him a feared gang member.
Although the girl remained subdued through the rest of the classes, Antonio doesn't know if she really got the message. And there are always other girls out there who think gangs are glamorous, that there's something romantic about criminals.
"They want to party. They do our drugs, drink our liquor...but when it's time for the panties to come down, they panic," he says. "Even the older girls--seventeen, eighteen--have a hard enough time trying to get out of it. The younger ones..." He lets the rest of the words go unspoken.
It was only a month or so after he frightened the girl in the Amer-I-Can program that Brandy DuVall, for God knows what reason, got into a car with five young men who took her to a home in Adams County. Antonio rubs his face and picks up Snacks, carefully placing the doll in a box to keep her safe.
August 20, 1998
Theresa Swinton peeks through the double doors of the fifth-floor courtroom. There are no seats available, so she sits on a bench in the hallway. She's just come from a hearing for her eldest son's girlfriend.
The Jeffco DA's office arrested the girlfriend for helping Danny when he was on the run for the murder of Brandy DuVall. Today's hearing was to make sure she understood the charges against her.
It is also the third day of jury selection for the trial of Francisco "Pancho" Martinez, a slow, agonizing process made more so because if this jury finds him guilty, it will send him on to a subsequent trial. One for Pancho's life.
Theresa had hoped to watch the questioning of prospective jurors for a few minutes to show her support for his mother, Linda. She still remembers the quiet boy who never seemed to leave her house at 2727 California, who slept on the floor of her sons' room rather than be parted from Danny and Antonio, his adopted brothers. The polite little "neatnik" who picked up after her messy kids.
She recalls a story her friend Lonnie Lynn told her about when Antonio and Pancho were incarcerated at Lookout. Lynn was conducting a bed check of the dormitory when he noticed that sixteen-year-old Pancho was not in his bed. He found the boy sleeping at the foot of Antonio's bed: the good soldier, watching the back of his fifteen-year-old friend.
Theresa had called Lynn a month ago after meeting with Danny's lawyers, Forrest "Boogie" Lewis and David Lindsey. They wanted her to use her influence to get Danny to accept a plea agreement. It wasn't much of a deal: Plead guilty to first-degree murder and the DA wouldn't seek the death penalty, just life in prison. No parole.
Lynn told her that he'd heard Pancho was going to try to "take the weight off Danny" for his role in Brandy's murder. "He's willing to take the death penalty if it helps."
Theresa doesn't know these new attorneys appointed to Danny's case. It seems to her they just want to get it over with; they flat-out told her there's no chance of an acquittal, not even a slim possibility that a jury might go for a lesser murder charge. It's the death penalty or life without parole, they said.
She doesn't think Pancho will be able to help Danny, either. Her son, like Pancho and Little Frank, had been charged with two counts of first-degree murder, as well as first-degree sexual assault, sexual assault on a minor, kidnapping and assault.
The first murder count is murder after deliberation. She knows there will be testimony that several of the young men, including Danny, Pancho and Sammy Quintana, actually held a little council to decide what to do with the girl after they'd raped her. But even if Danny can somehow claim he was too drunk to have deliberated that night, there's the second count: first-degree murder/felony murder. Essentially, it means that if Danny participated in any of the many felonies that led up to the girl's death--the sexual assault, the kidnapping--then he's just as guilty as the man who stabbed her to death.
Theresa wishes that Danny had been able to keep his first attorney, David Lane, who at least seemed willing to fight if that was what her son wanted. "It's his decision," she told the new lawyers, but she agreed to talk to Danny about the plea deal.
Danny had listened to her and also talked with his grandmother and girlfriend. He'd decided to accept the agreement, "but at the last minute, they wanted him to sign an affidavit that what all these other witnesses were saying is the truth...so they could use it against Panch," Theresa says. "He wouldn't. He'll admit what he did, but he won't say anything to hurt Pancho."
That was nearly a week ago, a Friday. On the following Monday, Jeffco DA Dave Thomas gave official notice that his office would seek the death penalty if Danny is convicted of first-degree murder. The next day, they'd arrested Danny's girlfriend and charged her with being an accessory after the fact.
"Danny says she's a good girl," Theresa says, "that she didn't know about this...She wouldn't let him tell her, she didn't want to know. He says, 'They're hurting her to hurt me.'"
The family is worried about what the prosecution will do next. Will there be more warrants? Theresa prays the prosecutors won't go after others.
But a trial isn't what Theresa wants, either. All along, she thought Danny should just own up to what he'd done...Maybe if he had in the beginning, he could have swung a deal like his cousin's. Sammy Quintana got off with second-degree murder and has a chance of someday getting out of prison.
That thought brings on a wave of guilt. Theresa thinks all the time about the murdered girl and what her mother must be going through. She even feels ashamed for hoping that the state won't kill her son after what happened to Brandy.
If only Danny hadn't run...twice. "Danny isn't prison material. He won't make it," Antonio had warned her after the 1995 drug bust. Danny has always hated being cooped up. Her elder son had never spent more than a few hours in jail; he'd had no convictions on his record. Theresa fought to keep Danny out of jail after that drug arrest, had even made a personal appeal to the judge to let Danny serve his sentence at Cenikor, a treatment program. She thought the worst of Danny's problems were related to his drinking.
While Danny was in jail awaiting trial on the drug charge, two members of the Deuce-Seven Bloods, Sammy Quintana and Alejandro "Speed" Ornelas, had gone looking for a fellow Blood, Salvino Martinez. They believed that Salvino had turned in Danny and Antonio on the drug deal. In July 1996, Sammy and Alejandro poured nineteen rounds of high-velocity rifle bullets into an apartment where they thought Salvino was visiting. But he had already left: They killed nineteen-year-old Venus Montoya instead.
The police believed that Danny was the leader of the Deuce-Seven and must have ordered the hit. "It didn't make no sense," Theresa remembers. "He was waiting for sentencing, hoping everybody would stay cool so that I could work out the Cenikor deal. That was the last thing he needed."
But if Danny wasn't guilty of the crime (and charges were never formally filed), neither was he honest with her about what he knew. "He told me that he didn't have anything to do with it and didn't know who did," Theresa says.
So she'd had no clue that Sammy, her sister's son who she saw with his baby daughter in church every Sunday, was a killer. "He knew Danny would never tell on him," she says. The family ties were stronger than ever: The mother of Sammy's child and the mother of Danny's twin boys are sisters.
On December 30, 1996, Theresa won, and Danny was sentenced to Cenikor. Again, Antonio warned her that his brother didn't have the discipline necessary. And he was right. Danny, upset that he wasn't allowed to use the telephone, walked away from the program the next day.
In the hallway of the Jefferson County courthouse, Theresa begins to cry. She should have let Danny go to prison. If he was in prison, none of the rest of this tragedy would have happened...at least not this way to that little girl.
After Danny left Cenikor, Theresa had her telephone disconnected so that he couldn't call her. "I felt that after everything I had done, he had turned around and stabbed me in the back," she says. Fighting for control of her tears, she grows angry.
"Danny is not the victim here. He had his chances, just like Antonio," she says. "He could have stayed in college. He could have given up the gang life. He could have stayed at Cenikor.
The Deuce-Seven was in a downward spiral. The violence, the way they viewed women as "bitches and ho's," all the antisocial values of gangsta rap were dragging them down. Venus Montoya was just unlucky enough to have been in their path.
As was a fourteen-year-old girl a year later. While on the run from Cenikor, Danny lived at least part of the time with his uncle, Jose Martinez, his father's brother, at a house in Adams County. 3165 Hawthorne. It was a house where the gang got together to party.
It was the house where they brought Brandy DuVall on the night of May 30, 1997.
"The People call Angela Metzger."
For the second time in a year, Brandy's mother rises from her seat in the spectator gallery and goes to stand before Judge Michael Villano. She's again wearing a black dress. She ignores the husky young man with the brooding features at the defense table: Twenty-four-year-old Francisco "Pancho" Martinez.
Before the jury was brought in, defense attorney Pat Ridley had asked the judge not to let Angela sit with her family until after she appeared on the stand. The defense didn't want the emotional impact that would have on the jurors. "We'd ask that Mrs. Metzger, like all other witnesses, wait outside."
Prosecutor Mark Randall labeled the request "silly...They're going to see her sitting there for the next two weeks." The judge denied Ridley's request, the jurors were brought in, the opening arguments presented, and Angela was called to the stand.
Brandy's mother looks like she's caught in a recurring bad dream. Randall again yanks tears from her by asking that she identify Brandy in a photograph--a shot of her daughter hamming it up at Continuation, the ceremony marking her passage from middle school to high school--and then Brandy's jewelry. The "B" necklace. The engagement ring Angela's first husband had given her. Another ring with the letter "L," for the nickname Brandy had given herself. Logic.
Angela is asked the same questions she was at Frank Vigil's trial. Why was Brandy wearing a red Chicago Bulls jersey the night the gang picked her up?
"She loved Michael Jordan and wanted to be like him," she says. "Her father, who lives in Phoenix, bought it for her."
Didn't she know that Bloods wore red? That Chicago Bulls jerseys and jackets were a favorite of the gang?
"I know," she replies. But Brandy wore it only because of Michael and because red was the color of her birthstone.
Angela doesn't get a chance to explain that shortly before her death, Brandy had complained to her mother that she couldn't wear her favorite color in public because of the gangs. And Angela had told her to wear what she wanted. If you can't wear red or blue or purple or whatever, then the gangs have really taken over.
Angela knew now that she was wrong. It wasn't safe. And although she will have to live with that for the rest of her life, it isn't something she's allowed to tell the jury.
There are so many things she would like to tell the jurors. Especially how much her daughter had meant to her. After her son, Tim, was born, Angela wasn't supposed to have any more children. But she wanted a daughter so desperately that she "sneaked" another pregnancy.
It was a difficult delivery, and the doctor opted to put her under. When she woke, she asked her then-husband about the sex of the child. "A girl," he said.
"Is she beautiful?" Angela asked.
"Yes," he answered. Then she passed out. When she woke up, she asked the same questions.
A baby girl...and yes, she was beautiful.
In her opening statement, prosecutor Ingrid Bakke had again described Angela as being in a "transition period" when Brandy died. She and her husband, Carl, had separated, but she'd secured a good new job, and Angela and Brandy were going to move out of the home of her adoptive parents, Rose and Paul Vasquez, the very next day into a place of their own. Nothing much, a converted, one-bedroom motel room...but it had a tiny kitchen and a pool. It represented a fresh start.
They were "more friends than mother-daughter," Bakke had said, adding that Brandy was an independent girl. Bakke had to say something, in answer to the unspoken question that stuck like an icepick in Angela's heart: What was a fourteen-year-old girl doing at a bus stop on South Federal Boulevard a few minutes before midnight?
Angela wanted to answer the question: Brandy was trying to get home from her friend Patrice Bowman's, as she had many times before. She didn't have to take the bus. She could have called her brother for a ride. She could have called her grandparents or uncle. But she was an independent girl who didn't want to trouble her family when the bus would drop her off just a couple of blocks from her grandparents' home.
The prosecutors had warned her early on that they wouldn't be able to defend Brandy's memory from everything its own witnesses would say about her, although Bakke did admonish the jurors in her opening that "this isn't about her lifestyle, but the rape torture, kidnapping and murder of Brandy."
But the girl they would describe was not the girl Angela knew. The girl she knew was an honor-roll student who agonized over a single B when all her other grades were A's. The girl she knew was not a virgin, but she still asked a lot of innocent questions about sex and didn't understand the promiscuity she saw on television shows. The girl she knew was so shy about her body that she wouldn't wear a swimsuit to the pool, or a dress to school, or even shorts that showed too much leg. The girl she knew wouldn't wear mascara.
Angela didn't have many answers to the questions she knew she would be hearing--and she blamed herself that they had to be asked at all. She didn't know why her daughter got in the car with those boys. Or why she allowed the man sitting at the defense table to strip her naked and carry her to a back bedroom.
Was she offered a ride home? Was she given more drugs and liquor than her small body could handle? At what point did she realize she was in way over her head?
And was what the prosecution witnesses were saying true? Or were they trying to minimize their involvement by claiming that, at least at first, Brandy had been a willing participant?
Angela would never know the answers. The only person in the world she could trust to tell her the truth was dead. Wake up, baby. Wake up.
The courtroom is packed. The man accused of raping and stabbing her daughter has many supporters on his side of the aisle. A baby cries among them. Otherwise, the room is quiet except for Angela's voice and that of prosecutor Randall.
He asks her about the last time she saw Brandy alive. She can feel the emotions building as she describes her daughter reaching in the car to hug her.
"Did she say anything?" Randall asks.
Angela looks down. Only a month has passed since Brandy's birthday, when they erected a four-foot-tall steel cross on the hill above where she'd died. Visiting her daughter's spirit there was about all she had left, except for memories and photographs and tears. Sometimes it seems she'll never run out of tears. She doesn't try to stop them as she looks back up. "I love you," she says softly.
The trial of Francisco Martinez unfolds much like the trial of Frank "Little Bang" Vigil Jr. There are strategic differences, however.
In Vigil's trial, prosecutors concentrated on Frank's position as the protege of reputed gang leader Danny "Bang" Martinez Jr. (hence the "Little Bang" moniker). And on the then-sixteen-year-old being the first to suggest that Brandy had to die to protect their identities.
At this trial, the prosecution is contending that of all the gang members there that night, Pancho was the worst. On him will be laid the most brutal aspects of Brandy's rape and torture; he will be accused of doing the actual stabbing.
In his opening remarks, Pat Ridley makes it clear that the defense position will be that prosecution star witness Sammy Quintana is accusing Pancho in order to "protect" his cousin Danny and himself. That Pancho was "merely present"--a legal term that's the only defense against the felony murder count--while Danny was giving the orders and Sammy was doing the killing. "Blood is thicker than water," Ridley says.
It's nonsense, the part about Sammy protecting his cousin. Danny and Antonio were always closer to Pancho than they were to their blood relative. Pancho had joined the CMG Bloods at the same time the Martinez brothers did, and he had helped establish the Deuce-Seven subset. That was several years before Sammy got involved.
But the jury doesn't know that. And Pancho, who's not exactly trying to "take the weight off Danny," just sits there and lets his attorneys do the talking.
Otherwise, the trial follows the Vigil script. Lance Butler, who with a friend discovered Brandy's body on the afternoon of May 31, 1997, lying next to Clear Creek, is called to the stand. He holds his arms in a circle to describe the pool of blood he nearly stepped in. "We saw more than we intended," he says of that day.
Jeffco sheriff's deputy Diane Obbema recalls her arrival at mile marker 296.5. Of looking back up that hill at a river of blood that led to the body of a young woman.
Then come the gang members, the three who have pleaded guilty to sexual assault and agreed to testify against the others in order to avoid the murder charges. David "Baby G" Warren, who answers each question as though the answer is being pulled ever so reluctantly from his mouth, testifies about walking through the door of 3165 Hawthorne with a box of booze, proclaiming that he and his pals had brought a girl who was "down to have sex" with the gang for some cocaine.
There is testimony about how Warren's half-wit brother, Maurice, walked into the home with an arm around a young girl. Two other girls, one Pancho's girlfriend and the other Danny's girlfriend, were already in the house, getting high with Jose "Uncle Joe" Martinez. One will later testify that the girl with Maurice kept her head down and appeared drunk or high. She wasn't introduced. She wasn't offered a beer. She was taken to the bathroom, where she was given cocaine by Quintana and stripped by Pancho, who then carried her to a back bedroom.
Through all of this, Pancho rarely shows emotion. The jury sees a clean-cut young man in a loose civilian shirt that conceals a shock belt as well as his tattoos.
On the first day of the trial, an attractive young woman is seated on one side of Pancho, his lawyers on the other. The more cynical court observers note that placing an attractive young woman--who otherwise seems to serve no purpose, since she takes no notes and participates in none of the courtroom questioning or discussions--next to the defendant in cases where sexual assault is a component has become common at defense tables. As if to say, See, he's not a danger to women. But she looks uncomfortable when Pancho leans over to whisper something to her. The next day there is a lawyer between the woman and the defendant. By the end of the trial, she is at the opposite end of the table from him.
During a break the first day, when the judge and the jury have left the room, Pancho reveals something more of himself. As Brandy's family rises to leave, he turns toward them and with a smirk nods his head at each one. Angela. Her husband, Carl. Grandma Rose and Grandpa Paul. Brandy's brother Tim. The cousins and friends. It's not a friendly act.
When Sargent angrily notes this to the deputies providing security, Pancho lashes out at the prosecutor. "Fuck you, you fuckin' pussy." Then he turns to prosecutor Bakke and adds, "And fuck you, too, bitch."
When Villano returns to the courtroom, lead prosecutor Hal Sargent is still seething. "I don't care what he says to me," he tells the judge. "But the victim's family shouldn't have to put up with that sort of thing."
Villano, who's been on the bench for twenty years, looks at Dave Kaplan for his response. The defense attorney shrugs. "I wasn't present...It may have been a staring contest."
Sargent shakes his head. "It was not a 'staring contest,'" he says. "He has the right to a public trial, but he doesn't have a right to try to intimidate the victim's family."
From now on, Villano says, he'll stay in the courtroom until the prisoner is removed. "I won't put up with it," he says to Pancho, who stares at him with no visible reaction. "If the problem persists," the judge adds, "he'll be excluded from his own trial."
There will be other incidents, although not all involving Pancho directly. One afternoon, with the court in recess, Rose and Paul Vasquez walk out to their new car only to find it surrounded by a dozen young men, two of whom sit on the hood. A relative goes to fetch a deputy, but by the time he arrives, the young men are gone.
Driving out of the courthouse complex later with several other family members in his car, the relative finds himself boxed in on two sides by young men in cars. He drives as fast as he can until the others finally tire of their game and turn off.
The day Jacob "Smiley" Casados is scheduled to testify, a mistake by the escorts allows Pancho to see him in a hallway. "You aren't going to be Smiley much longer," he tells the young man whom he beat into the gang on the night Brandy died.
August 24, 1998
"The People call Jose Martinez." Deputy District Attorney Mark Randall, the worrier of the three prosecutors, turns toward the door at the back of the courtroom.
The spectators turn in their seats to follow his gaze. An angry muttering rises from the defense side of the gallery as "Uncle Joe" saunters in wearing a tight white T-shirt and blue jeans. His black hair is greased and combed back.
Uncle Joe is living out of state in a witness-protection program. If he's frightened now, he doesn't show it. His posture is all insouciance as he stands before Judge Villano and raises his right hand. He even stifles a yawn as he climbs up into the witness stand.
It's mildly disappointing for some courtroom observers who sat through Frank Vigil's trial. Then, Uncle Joe was all over the place. Pounding on the witness stand, rising out of his seat, cussing and muttering diatribes.
Out of the jury's hearing, Randy Canney, Vigil's attorney, had questioned whether Jose Martinez was high on crack cocaine and should be allowed to continue testifying. When Uncle Joe stayed on the stand, Canney had asked the same question. "No, sir," he'd replied, his antics calmed only momentarily by Villano's admonitions that he "stop doing that."
But today Uncle Joe is much calmer. His voice is singsong Mexican, and even a word like "sir" comes out polysyllabic.
"Some people call you Uncle Joe?" Randall asks.
"Let's talk about that." Randall begins trying to lay the groundwork for the convoluted familial nature of this case. "What is your brother's name?"
Jose Martinez has four brothers, but he knows what the prosecutor wants and offers only one name. "Danny Martinez."
"Who are his sons?"
"Antonio Martinez and Danny Martinez."
"Does Danny Junior have another name that he goes by?"
"He is your nephew?"
"Is Bang involved in a gang?"
"Do you know what gang?"
"Crenshaw Mafia Bloods."
"Any certain block or sect?"
"27th Street Gang."
"Do you know who is in charge of that gang?"
"I think Danny Martinez."
Randall asks who else is considered powerful in the gang. But before Martinez can answer, Kaplan objects. The attorneys gather before the judge, where Kaplan argues that testimony about the gang connections is supposed to be limited. The mere mention of the word gangs, he fears, is prejudicial to his client.
"I am just asking who is in control here," Randall responds. "It is in the discovery that they've been in his house before and assaulted people there before...I am just going to talk about how often he has seen Danny and Pancho together and how they interact."
Villano allows him to ask questions about Uncle Joe's observations of the two together.
"Is Francisco Martinez a member of the 27th Street Bloods?"
"Is Francisco Martinez in the courtroom?"
Uncle Joe points to Pancho, who looks up briefly, then goes back to staring straight ahead into space.
"Does Francisco Martinez have any other names?"
Uncle Joe describes how in May 1997 he was living in a rented house at 3165 Hawthorne Place with his son, Jose, who was nine at the time. His nephew Danny Martinez had asked to stay with him "about a month before all this."
"Did he have any clothes there?"
"No clothes. He just comes and goes. He is my nephew. I love him." The last line elicits snorts of derision from the defense side of the gallery.
"Were you at home on Friday, May 30, 1997?"
Martinez says he was, with his son and granddaughter Rochelle.
"Anybody else there?"
"Later on, yes. There was Pancho, Zig Zag, Bang and Little Bang."
Randall nodded. "Who is Little Bang?"
"Who is Zig Zag?"
"Did anybody else show up that day?"
"Boom showed up."
"Who is Boom?"
"My nephew, Danny's brother, Antonio."
"Is he part of the same group?"
Martinez hestitates, then answers, "Yes. It seems like he is trying to get away from it, though."
Two girls showed up. One named Jamie.
"Who is Jamie?"
"Danny Boy's girlfriend."
He didn't know the other girl's name, only that she was with Pancho. In the audience, Pancho's wife doesn't react to the testimony about her husband's dalliances.
After a while, Uncle Joe says, Antonio and the girls left. About eleven, he went to bed in his son's room, where his granddaughter was also sleeping.
"Why didn't you go to bed in your bedroom?"
"Because I had done all my laundry," Uncle Joe replies. "I did about five big old bags of clothes. I had them folded on my bed, on the small single bed. They were all neat, ready to be put away the next day into the closet, into the dresser."
He was awakened by a door slamming. "I looked out the window. I see some guy running down the street...running as fast as he could, like there was a ghost behind him."
"After you saw this guy running, what did you do?"
"I told my granddaughter to go back to sleep. I laid down with her. Then I heard my TV slam against the wall, hard...I heard things being knocked over."
"What did you do?"
"Peeked out the door." He says he saw his nephew Danny standing over someone who was lying on the floor. He plays his nephew's role: "You want to be initiated? I am going to initiate you."
"Could you see who he was standing over?"
"No, sir. I thought it was a guy...I went back in my room. I seen them initiate people before. I want no part of this."
"What happened next?"
"Pancho comes over by the door. He said, 'Do you want some head, Uncle Joe?'"
"How long have you known Pancho?" Randall asks.
Martinez shrugs. "Nine, ten years." He says he laid back down on the bed for another few minutes until Pancho issued the same invitation. Do you wan some hayid, On-cull Joe?
This time Uncle Joe got up and opened the door. "I seen five guys standing there in red shirts," their backs to him, watching whatever was going on in Uncle Joe's own bedroom across the hallway beyond the bathroom.
"I didn't like all that stuff bangin' around," Martinez continued. "They were going to initiate somebody in my house."
"Did you recognize any of the five guys?"
"Little Bang?" Randall wants to get the gang nicknames in front of the jury as often as possible.
"Little Bang," Uncle Joe nods.
"Did you recognize anybody else?"
"Monkey Boy," he says, using his term for Maurice Warren.
"Why do you call him Monkey Boy?"
"Because he looked like a monkey?" As he had at the previous trial, Uncle Joe smiles at his joke. When no one else does, the grin drops off his face.
Randall asks what he saw when he went to his bedroom. "I opened the door," Uncle Joe says. "The door was closed, the light was off."
"Did you turn the light on?"
"I turned the light on." He seems reluctant to go on.
"What did you see?"
"Zig Zag was getting head."
"What does that mean?"
"She was giving him oral sex."
"Who is she?"
"I didn't know who it was then."
The girl was on her back on his bed, a mattress on top of a box spring on the ground. "And then Danny was on top of her. I don't know where he had his thing at, but he was having sex with her. Pancho was standing right around on the side...I was real mad. My clothes were thrown everywhere...There was blood on them. They threw my clothes anywhere they wanted to, like animals." Jose shakes his head over what they had done to his clothes.
"Was there blood on the bed?"
"Blood on the bed, on the sheets," he says, disgusted.
"You are looking at this girl here and you're concerned about your clothes...Are you concerned about her?"
"I thought she was doing it for free, you know," Jose Martinez says. "I thought she was on the rag."
He doesn't appear to notice the tiny cries from Brandy's family. But the jurors are starting to look uncomfortable and squirming a bit in their seats. It will get worse.
"You said you saw Pancho in that room, too. Did you see what he was doing?" Randall asks.
"Standing there, acting stupid."
"What happened next?"
"I told him to get the fuck out of my house. 'You're fuckin' up my house...and get this bitch out of my house. She's fuckin' up ever'thin'." Uncle Joe shrugs and repeats himself. "I thought she was on the rag."
"Are they listening to you?" Randall asks.
"They're not listening...It was like talkin' to somebody that don't understan' English."
Randall asks a series of questions about whether he saw Pancho have sexual contact with the girl. Uncle Joe screws up his face and thinks for about thirty seconds before saying he can't remember. Defense lawyer Kaplan wants it noted on the record that it appears Uncle Joe is "trying to remember his story" rather than respond to the question.
Randall tries to get Uncle Joe back on track by asking if he recalls a conversation he had with Jeffco investigator Al Simmons, the bullet-headed detective who sits at the prosecution table. "Do you remember at that time, Investigator Simmons asked you, 'He is getting head from her?' And that you recalled Pancho saying, 'My turn.' And Pancho was getting head now."
"I don't want to lie," Uncle Joe says, inspiring snickers behind the defense table. "I don't remember."
"What did Danny do?"
"Danny got off her."
"Describe what Danny looked like."
"Like a sickening man," Uncle Joe says. He's starting to work himself up to the dramatics of the last trial. Randall asks again, "Tell me what he physically looked like."
"His pants down to his ankles," Uncle Joe recalls. "His underwear all bloody. He was wearing white boxers. They were red...He is walking with his legs wide open, walking away from her." His voice is at once robotic and singsong. "He's going towards the bathroom. He takes a shower."
"What happened after Danny got in the shower?"
Uncle Joe begins to recount his "heroics" in the face of the gang. "I am telling everybody, 'Get out of my house.'" Danny told the girl to go take a shower.
"Who took the girl to the bathroom?"
"Danny and Pancho went to the bathroom together with her."
After the shower, Pancho went back into the bathroom and carried her out. "He takes her to the...bedroom. He bodyslams her."
"What do you mean?"
"Like wrestling, you throw somebody on their back on the floor. He slammed her on the bed...her leg hit the windowsill."
"Did he throw her hard?"
"As hard as he could," Uncle Joe says, nodding. "I started calling him all kinds of names...It was fun, fun to him, fun to them. They're all laughing."
"What was their reaction to you?"
"There was no reaction. They didn't care," Uncle Joe is almost yelling. "They didn't hear me. They didn't want to hear me."
Randall holds his hands out, makes a calming motion. "How old are you?"
"I'm 52 years old."
"How big are you?" Randall wants the jury to compare the much smaller man to Pancho's broad shoulders and six-foot frame.
"How much to do you weigh?"
Randall returns to the scene of Brandy on the bed, fourteen years old, five feet tall, a hundred pounds and in trouble.
"Then they put her on her hands and knees. I am at the doorway lookin' towards the bed. Danny Boy puts her on her hands and knees. Baby-G tries to get some head...I am looking."
"Did anyone say anything at that time?" Randall asks.
"One of them young kids says, 'Somebody fucked her up.' Them are his words."
"What did you see?"
"I seen the back of her butt. It was about this big," he says, his hands out as though holding a large grapefruit. "It was swollen. She was bleeding from there, from her rectum. I told myself, 'This is no freebie. This is a rape.'" He pauses, then adds, "I hated it even more...and Danny jumps on her from the back."
With that, Randall indicates to Villano that this would be a good place to stop for the day. The judge admonishes the stunned-looking jury, "Let me remind you, until this trial is completed, do not discuss this case with anyone, including members of your family, anyone involved with the trial, other jurors or anyone else...Do not read or listen to any news reports."
They will have to be alone with their thoughts. And still, it will get worse.
She was one of them. A female member of the CMG Bloods on the west side of town. She has followed the story of what happened to Brandy DuVall with a heavy heart.
Although she was "beat in" to the gang, she and her friends were "homegirls" and thus treated better than the young girls they'd locate for the Bloods. "We used to find girls like Brandy for them," she says. "We'd look for them at bus stops and parking lots and ask if they wanted to go party...drink and smoke a few joints and make some money."
The young girls they picked up were particularly interested in the money. What they didn't know was that they were going to be raped by the gang. "Me and the homegirls would be in one room getting high, and the guys would be in a back room pulling a train," she says. "We knew what was going on...but I guess we just kind of got caught up with the guys calling these other girls 'bitches' and 'ho's.'
"We sat back and didn't think too much about it, 'cause the guys respected us. They'd take us shopping and buy us things...I liked all that money. We'd steal and rob for them, and if the girls wouldn't go along, we'd beat them up for them."
Some of these young girls were used by the gang for prostitution. "They'd call these Chinese guys who liked young girls and have them come over for sex or oral sex. We'd sell them to the Chinese guys...If the girls didn't want to, we'd beat them up."
When the gang got tired of the girls, the female Bloods were in charge of dropping them off on some street corner with a warning. Don't talk or we'll come looking for you again.
Brandy was not the first young girl raped at Uncle Joe's house, the female Blood says. "It went on at least weekly for a time a couple years ago. The guys would give him drugs and money to use the back bedroom, and he'd turn his back."
It was all "crazy and sick," she says now. But it took getting older and having children of her own to realize just how low she and the others had sunk. "It was like other people weren't real."
She mostly hung out with younger members of the CMGs, particularly the Warren brothers, though she knew the older guys in the Deuce-Seven subset. Of them, Pancho was the "most aggressive," she says.
"He's the one who would give us orders, like 'deal with that girl,' which meant beat her up."
The former Bloods member pauses. "What we did to young girls affects me really badly," she says. "I pray to Brandy and ask her to forgive me.
"I don't know if I'll ever be able to forgive myself."
Inside the courtroom the next day, Randall picks up where he left off, with Brandy on her hands and knees, her rectum swollen and bleeding.
"Danny got on top of her from the back. He had sexual relations with her," Uncle Joe says. "I don't know what kind it was. I don't know where he had his penis at."
"What happened next?"
"Pancho...I don't know what was wrong with him. It was all a big, funny thing to him."
"What was Pancho doing?"
"He was laughing. He took off to the kitchen. He comes back with a broom. He tells Danny, 'Get out of the way. Move.'" Uncle Joe gestures with his hand. "Danny moves over to the right."
Randall interrupts in order to introduce a new piece of evidence: a straw kitchen broom purchased at Safeway. The real broom disappeared after that night, but Uncle Joe had told investigators where to buy one just like it. Now the prosecutor leans the broom against a table in front of the witness stand and asks Uncle Joe to continue his account.
"He came from the kitchen," Uncle Joe says. "He laughed like a little kid with a new toy in his hand. He was laughing."
"Danny moves to the side, and what happened?"
"Danny held her down from the back. Pancho puts it in her rectum. She is hurting anyway." Several of the jurors have gone white. Rose Vasquez cries quietly, her head on her husband's shoulder.
Uncle Joe looks at the new evidence with distaste. "Could you please remove this broom out of here?" he says weakly.
Randall complies, then asks, "How did he put it in?"
Uncle Joe demonstrates a two-handed shove for the jury and says, "She goes, 'Don't do that. It hurts.'"
All of Brandy's family members are crying. But they keep their seats and continue to listen. Pancho still stares straight ahead.
"I am calling him all kinds of names," Uncle Joe says.
"Describe the force he used?"
"Hard...He was laughing about it. He took the broom out. I went over and grabbed it. I grabbed it and threw it." It was the last he saw the broom.
"Did you hear anybody say anything?"
"Danny says, 'I got shit on my shoes.'...Pancho goes, 'You got shit on his shoes. That's my friend, bitch," says Uncle Joe, his voice rising. "She is still on her hands and knees, and he kicks her in the chest."
"How?" Randall asks.
"Like a football, as hard as he can." Then Danny and Pancho took her back into the bathroom.
"Did you see what was happening in the bathroom?"
"Yes, I was trying to get in there to help her." This statement brings forth sighs and groans from Brandy's family. No one believes Uncle Joe acted in the least bit heroic that night.
"What did you see?"
Breathlessly, Uncle Joe recalls the scene. "Danny was sitting on the toilet with his legs open. His penis was out. He was making her give him head. I see Pancho with the toilet plunger now...I am tryin' to get in. 'Leave her alone.' She said, 'Take me to the hospital.' I am tryin' to push the door open. Pancho is right there by the door, and he has the toilet plunger. I don't know what he is going to do with that." He never did see, he adds, because he was pushed out and the door closed.
Uncle Joe describes walking out to the living room where Zig Zag and some of the others were milling around. "I said, 'What are you guys doing, man? What's up? Why don't you guys go? Leave. Get the fuck out of here.'"
"Did Zig Zag tell you anything?"
Uncle Joe imitates Sammy Quintana holding his hands a foot apart and saying, "Uncle Joe, she did a line this long."
Then Danny came out and went to the kitchen. "Danny comes back with some handcuffs that my cousin's daughter left in a big old box from her house."
"With metal handcuffs?"
"Metal," Uncle Joe agrees. "There's not a key for it...He grabs her arm. He puts one on her wrist. And I am going, 'What are you doing?' I went at him, 'Don't be doing that.' I got pushed back about four feet."
"Who pushed you back?"
"Mostly Danny pushin' me back...She was right there, still naked. Then he put the other handcuff on her with her hands behind her back."
"What did they do then?"
"Then that other guy, Monkey, says, 'My turn, my turn.' I said, 'Get the fuck out of here.'... Danny Boy takes her by the handcuffs and pulls her to the living room and throws her in the corner by the front door. She lands on her butt on the floor...I am standing right there by the TV, lookin' at all this in amazement."
Uncle Joe is quiet for a moment. Softly, he recalls her saying, "Take me to a hospital." Then he grows agitated again. "Pancho jumps up and kicks her in the back of the head with his foot. Real hard."
At last, Angela Metzger bows her head. She knows that what will follow is the test that Brandy failed by passing.
Frank Vigil asked if Brandy knew where she was. "I was hoping she didn't say 60th and Federal," Uncle Joe says. He sighs.
"What did she say?"
Another sigh, then, "60th and Federal."
"What was Little Bang's reaction to that?"
"'She knows where we're at. We are going to have to dust her.'"
"How far was he to her when he said those words?"
"Probably three feet away from her. He was close to her?"
"Did Frank say that loud enough for her to hear?"
The courtroom is quiet except for a few sniffles. The image of a girl sitting naked on the floor with her hands cuffed behind her back, trying her best to figure a way out. She gives the right answer--the wrong answer.
"I told them, 'Why don't you put some pants on her?'...Monkey went and got a pair of pants I was wearing the day before," Uncle Joe continues. "They were light blue, like these pants I am wearing now. He comes back and throws them at her and says, 'Put these on, bitch.'...I said, 'How in the hell do you expect her to put them on when you got her handcuffed, you dumbass'...So he put them on her, Monkey Boy did. She is standing up then.'"
Angela has had enough. She gets up and leaves in a rush, tears streaming down her face. Those sitting on the defense side of the gallery pretend not to notice.
"Were other articles of clothing put on her?"
"Danny comes back with his pullover winter sweatshirt with a hood on it. He puts it on her backwards. It covered up her face...She says, 'Let me go. Let me go.'"
"What happened then?"
"Little Bang, Frankie, hit her."
"With his fist, his right hand...the left part of her face. He told her, 'Shut up, bitch.'"
Then there was a new terror. "Here comes Zig Zag with a knife going at her. I say, 'No.'" For the first time this trial, Jose Martinez hits the witness stand. The judge scowls.
"I attack him," Uncle Joe says. "I take the knife from him. I am wrestling. You get strength when you are in a position like that...I took the knife and I threw it."
Zig Zag doubled the wires and wrapped them around his hands. "I attack him again. I take that from him...The other guy goes in the kitchen, and he gets in the top drawer where I got my knives."
"Did you see what he got?"
"He stuck it in his pocket. I don't know what he got." There was no time to find out. Zig Zag was back with another set of the video-game wires. "I fight him and took that away from him. What the other guys are doing, I don't know. I am concentrating on this one fool."
After the battle with Zig Zag, the core of the Deuce-Seven gang left the room. "Danny Boy, Pancho, Zig Zag. Frankie and Baby-G."
"Who stayed in the living room with you?"
"Monkey Boy and that young kid," he says, referring to Maurice and Jacob "Smiley" Casados. "There was Monkey Boy watching me. There was another boy watching her."
"What are you doing?"
It's time for more Uncle Joe heroics. "I am thinking about hitting this guy...gettin' the strength to knock him out. And I was going to go after the other one and knock him out and run out with her," he says, then shakes his head. "But I have two kids in the bedroom still sleepin'...My main concern is them. If they weren't there, it would have been a different story, let me tell you."
"Did people come out of the back room?"
"They came out...they went to the front, by the front door. They go out except for Danny Boy. They went out like there was somethin' chasing them."
"What did Danny do?"
"Danny stayed there...I tell Danny Boy, screaming at him, 'You better not mess with her. You better take her to the hospital. You better drop her off at her house. Don't fuck with her.'"
"What did Danny tell you?" Randall asks quietly.
"'Oh, Uncle Joe, I am going to take her home,'" he says. "Like a good little boy." The gang left with the girl about 4:30 a.m.
"Let me ask you, what did you do then, after they all left and you closed the door?"
"I started praying."
Kaplan objects to the statement on grounds that it isn't relevant. "I'd ask that it be stricken," he says, and Villano complies.
"Did you call the police?"
"I was scared."
"Scared of who?"
The next morning, Uncle Joe cleaned up his house. He found a lot of beer and liquor bottles and the girl's clothes and her Nikes. "I looked inside the pants. There was a pack of Marlboros, and I smoked one."
"Anything else in the pants?"
"I found a prayer card. It broke me up."
As he was cleaning up, his son woke. "I said, 'Come here, hijito. Look at what these Bloods did. I don't want you to be part of no gang.'"
About 10 a.m., Danny returned to the house. "He tried to get my boy to put them shoes on. 'Here. Try these on.'"
"What did you do?"
"I said, 'Don't put those shoes on. Don't try them on. Danny is going to take them back to the girl. Them are hers.'"
Danny took the clothes and shoes, as well as a bag of bloody sheets, out to a dumpster in the alley.
"You told us earlier you found a prayer card in her pants. Did Danny take it?"
"No," Uncle Joe says. "In case I got shot, they dust me, I stuffed it under the sink."
Randall holds up a plastic bag with a card in it. "I show you what has been marked as People's Exhibit 30. Can you tell me what that is?"
"That is her card." The prosecutor lets this sink in. Only a few days ago, Bakke read from the card in her opening. See I have not forgotten you. I have carved you in the palm of my hands.
Several days later, Zig Zag and Danny returned to take the mattress. Uncle Joe helped.
"Why did you do that?"
"I am not going to say no to them guys. I'm not crazy."
In fact, Randall points out, Jose Martinez said nothing until the police came looking for him. Uncle Joe explains that he had been asking his family what to do. "This doesn't happen every day. I asked my sister, my other sister, my daughter, her husband, one of my other daughter's husband." But no one would help. "They turned their backs on me...I am trying to figure out what to do. I have the police on this side. I've got the Bloods on that side. I am right in the middle."
As for the witness-protection program he was put in after he agreed to testify against the Bloods, "I was given $1,000; a U-Haul was loaded up," Uncle Joe says. "Wherever a thousand bucks would take you, which ain't too far, that is where I went."
All day long, the courtroom has been packed. Loraine Bartles and her sixteen-year-old son sit on the bench outside, waiting for someone to leave so they can take their seats. As a woman exits, Bartles sends her son inside.
"Pancho is my husband's nephew," she explains. "I talk to my son every day about staying out of gangs. I brought him here because he wanted to see Pancho and because I wanted him to see how serious this really is.
"It's so hard to raise kids now. There's nothing for them to do. He wants this and he wants that...I tell him to get a job. He had one at the beginning of the summer but lost it."
Long ago, Bartles recalls, she used to babysit for the defendant and his sisters. "Pancho was a good kid, always happy...They're a good family, always together. He has like five uncles and six aunts.
"But I think he was affected when his grandfather got killed in a construction accident. I remember it was November 12, 1981, and he was working in downtown Denver when a concrete slab fell on him and cut off his legs."
This trial has been even harder than that on the family. "It used to be you'd go over to their house and they'd keep you laughing the whole time," Bartles says. "Now it's like going to a funeral."
The sun is beginning to sink behind the barren hills to the west of the courthouse. As the light strikes the window, an image appears.
Apparently, one of the courthouse pigeons had tried to fly through the glass, striking the pane so hard that dust from the feathers--down to the tiniest ones on the chest--left a perfect imprint with two outstretched wings. Only where the head struck was the detail lost, and there's a single bright smear, like the flash of a camera strobe light. And as the light hits the mark...
"Oh, my God," Bartles whispers. "It looks like an angel...Like maybe the girl was trying to get in."
Others are thinking along the same lines. During a break in the horrific testimony of Jose Martinez, some spectators notice the apparition as they exit the courtroom.
They make the sign of the cross.
Kaplan's cross-examination of Jose Martinez is angry, confrontational. "Let's talk first a little bit about the evidence that you helped get rid of," he begins. "When you were collecting the materials in your home, at that point you had known that there was a serious assault that had taken place, isn't that right?"
"Yes, sir." Uncle Joe knows he has nothing to fear. He broke the law by helping cover up a crime but has been assured he will not be prosecuted.
"At that point you had known that a rape had taken place?'
But he wasn't so afraid of the Bloods, Kaplan points out, that he got out of the house.
"I wasn't going nowhere, sir."
"That is right. After you collected all these things in the morning, you didn't immediately wake up your son and your granddaughter and say, 'Let's get out of the house, before anybody comes back,' did you?"
Kaplan points out that Uncle Joe wasn't afraid of Danny Martinez harming his son.
"He is my nephew, sir."
"He was there sometimes when Joe Junior was there, right?"
"And that was okay by you?"
"And you weren't scared when he was there just with your son Joe, were you?"
"You didn't call the police, did you?"
"I did not call the police...I am not stupid. I'm not going to call the police on a man...I didn't ask no questions. I didn't want no part of it."
"Frank Vigil you have known for a long time?"
Uncle Joe nods. "Since he was born. I held him."
"As a matter of fact, your ex-wife, isn't her brother Frankie's father?"
"Yes, he is my good friend, too."
"So there are some relations there?"
"I love Frank Vigil. I love his son," Uncle Joe says, turning partly to face the hard stares coming from the gallery behind the defense table.
"And you said that Danny Martinez is your nephew?"
"And Sammy Quintana, Zig Zag, is actually related to Danny, isn't that right?" This goes back to Ridley's opening gambit, that blood is thicker than the bonds that tie Pancho to the Martinez brothers.
"So all those people are related by blood or by marriage somehow. Isn't that right?"
Kaplan is trying to build a case against the others as the true killers. It's Danny who handcuffs Brandy. Danny who throws her to the floor. Frank Vigil who suggests they have to kill her.
"And the person who responds to that is Zig Zag, Sammy Quintana. Isn't that right?"
"One of them."
"He is out of control, is he not?"
"They are all out of control."
"And you have been telling Danny, 'Take her home,' right?"
"Take her home, take her to the hospital, drop her off, do something with her, but don't hurt her...I told all of them."
"But you were telling Danny because you thought Danny would follow your orders?"
"They all heard me. I was telling all of them, plus Danny."
"Danny is who you're the closest with?"
Uncle Joe nods. "That is my true blood."
Word that the jury has reached a verdict goes out shortly before 11:30 a.m. Friday, September 3. The jurors had made their decision in just a couple of hours.
The last of the government witnesses, including Sammy Quintana, had testified the day before. "Who was stabbing her?" prosecutor Hal Sargent had asked. "Francisco Martinez," Sammy had replied.
When Kaplan had accused Quintana of being the real killer, Sammy had retorted that "but for one man's actions"--Pancho's--the girl would still be alive. "It wasn't my actions that led to murder."
Courtroom 5-B fills quickly. Except for Francisco Martinez's family, most who enter try first to sit on the prosecution side, as if by doing so they cast a vote along with the jury. But court personnel and district attorney employees have already claimed most of the seats in the rows behind Brandy DuVall's family. A couple of spots in the first row remain open for Angela and Carl, who have yet to arrive.
Latecomers peer at the pews behind the prosecution, hoping space will miraculously open up. They glance nervously, even distastefully, at the rows behind the defense table where there are still a few seats left near Martinez's family...Everyone is aware of what happened after the Alejandro Ornelas verdict was read.
A deputy in plainclothes directs members of the press to sit in the first row between the defense table and Martinez's family and supporters, a row previously kept empty by court security. Behind the reporters, family members gasp as they try to hold back their fear. Many are red-eyed from crying or lack of sleep; they look around without hope. Several of the young women clutch babies who were not even born the last time their cousin/uncle/father "Pancho" Martinez was a free man.
Three deputies stand at the door next to the defense table through which prisoners are brought in. Two deputies stand by the jury door, and two more guard the public entrance.
Just before noon, Martinez is led into the courtroom in handcuffs, the shock belt bulging beneath his shirt. His appearance illicits a new round of cries from his family. He glances at them but gives no sign of recognition before he takes a seat at the defense table. He leans forward, propping his chin up with his right hand, a finger extended along his cheek.
All of the main players in the courtroom drama seem used up, their energies drained. At the prosecution table, investigators Al Simmons and Doug Moore slump in their seats, lost in their thoughts; the prosecutors occasionally speak softly to one another but for the most part seem content to watch spectators arrive.
At the defense table, Kaplan and Ridley sit between the attractive young woman and Martinez. Ridley scribbles notes. Kaplan just stares off into space.
Judge Villano enters the room and sits down. A few minutes later, the jury is escorted in. The seven women and five men take their seats--some look at Villano, some stare straight ahead, others glance curiously at the crowd.
Villano asks, "Members of the jury, have you arrived at a verdict in this case?"
The jury foreman answers, "We have."
The indictments are handed to Villano, who takes a few minutes to read through them. Only the tiniest of whimpers can be heard from Pancho's family. Everyone in the courtroom seems to be holding his breath.
At last Villano looks up from the papers and addresses the jurors. "Members of the jury, listen now while I read your verdicts in the case 97-CR1697...regarding the charges of murder in the first degree after deliberation and murder in the first degree felony murder, we the jury find Francisco Martinez Jr.--"
The word "guilty" is hardly out of the judge's mouth when the gallery behind Francisco Martinez erupts in despair.
"Noooo," his wife wails, and other members of the family join in. Their wracking sobs wash over the reporters sitting in the row directly in front of them.
A deputy moves to place himself between Martinez and the gallery, and the other deputies take up positions closer to the crowd. But this time there is no violence, just black, bottomless grief as the judge reads the verdicts on the other seven counts.
Second-degree kidnapping. Guilty. First-degree sexual assault. Guilty. Sexual assault on a child. Guilty.
Pancho drops his hand and bows his head, rapidly blinking his eyes. Then he gathers himself together, places his hand back on his chin, and sits without showing further emotion.
Conspiracy to commit first-degree murder after deliberation. Conspiracy to commit second-degree kidnapping. Conspiracy to commit first-degree sexual assault. Guilty. Guilty. Guilty.
When he finishes, Villano asks Kaplan if he would like the jury polled. Kaplan says "yes" just as Angela and Carl Metzger rush into the courtroom and take their seats in the front row. Villano polls the jurors, then thanks them and adds, "This was not a pleasant case to hear."
Francisco Martinez is ordered to stand and is handcuffed. "We love you, Pancho," family members yell. "We love you." Finally he looks back, tilting his chin ever so slightly and raising a hand as best he can. Then he quickly turns and heads out the door with his escort.
A few minutes later, Pancho's family members run through a gauntlet of television cameras and reporters. The women try to hide their faces with pillows.
Outside the victim assistance center on the first floor of the courthouse, Angela Metzger, with Carl at her side, holds up a photograph of Brandy. "I don't feel any better," she tells reporters. "It won't bring Brandy back. I know that she isn't in any pain, and it's my hope that what happened to her will help other little girls live...that this won't happen to them."
Angela says she has mixed feelings about whether Martinez should get the death penalty. "I don't really care, as long as he can't hurt anybody else," she says. "No parent should have to go through what we went through."
And will have to go through again.
Antonio Martinez has settled into his new life when Patricia comes to see her father on her birthday. Snacks the doll is waiting for her. It's nice to be able to take his daughter places without having to look over his shoulder.
Antonio's been busy attending to all the details of opening his business. Taking the local board of health exam and getting his tattoo license. Making sure the shop will get through inspection. Buying supplies. Getting the word out.
News of Pancho's conviction didn't surprise him. He knew a long time ago, before "that girl's" death, that it was inevitable that his friend, his "little brother" Frankie Vigil and his blood brother would end up in prison or dead.
Going legit was too much work. They liked the easy money, the power and the fear they instilled in others because they were the Deuce-Seven. In the straight world, they would be nobodies.
After Venus Montoya's murder, with Danny on the run from Cenikor, Antonio had begged his brother to give up gangbanging...or at least lie low. "But he said he wouldn't even slow down. If anything, they speeded up. They were drunk all the time, and they'd talk crazy shit, like going out in a blaze of glory, shooting it out with the police."
Antonio's efforts led to an argument with Danny that spring. "He said I was no longer down with the homeboys," he remembers. "I said, 'How can you say that after all we've done...what I've been through?' We could still be B-dogs, but the gangbanging wasn't leadin' nowhere."
They got through the fight. After all, they were brothers, no matter what. Thick and thin.
But there was now a gap between Bang...and Boom.
On the evening of May 30, 1997, Antonio stopped by his Uncle Joe's house to see Danny, Pancho, Sammy and Frank. The four seemed intent on getting as drunk as possible, and Antonio didn't like it when they got that way, talking and acting like fools. And he didn't like the two girls who were there. They were the sort to drop names, and he didn't need the attention.
Antonio left, angry and alone.
A few hours later, a fourteen-year-old girl named Brandy DuVall was brought to the house, and the others stepped over a line from which there was no turning back.
"What they did was insane. It made no sense," Antonio says. "To tell you the truth, I think they wanted to get caught. I think they were tired. They knew they weren't going anywhere."
Maybe if he'd stayed, he could have stopped the madness. It's nice to think that he would have. But Antonio, tormented by guilt, doesn't take the easy out and leave the thought there. "Or maybe I would have made sure they didn't get caught," he has to add.
He loves his brother. He loves Pancho and Frankie. They aren't monsters to him. They were lost and made bad decisions that had inevitable consequences. He went another way.
But sometimes he still feels the need to remind himself that he will always have some of the gang member inside him.
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"I'm Boom," he says. "I ain't no little motherfucker who wants to be 'like Boom.' I get up in the morning, look in the mirror and say, 'I am Boom.' And that will never change."
Next week: Danny Martinez's trial.
Visit www.westword.com to read parts one and two of "Dealing with the Devil" and related Westword stories.