Judgment Day

Page 7 of 17

That young man now watches his attorney, turning occasionally to look at the judges as if to gauge their reaction. The day had begun with Francisco asking the judges, through his attorneys, for permission to return to his cell; he didn't want to hear the testimony.

Although some of that testimony would be presented on his behalf, Kaplan had noted that it "is not particularly flattering to his family or upbringing" and that Francisco would be uncomfortable listening to it.

Several members of Brandy's family shook their heads at this request. They suspected that what Pancho really didn't want to hear was how the girl's death had affected them. That didn't seem fair. It certainly hadn't bothered him to hear Brandy's screams and pleas for mercy before he stabbed her. And then this man had smirked and laughed at them, mouthing obscenities during his trial.

Deputy District Attorney Sargent had objected to Francisco's request. "He has no constitutional right to be absent," he told the court. "What we're going to hear throughout these proceedings will be painful for everybody."

Kaplan countered by contending that a defendant's right to waive his presence was up to the court's discretion. But Villano, who'd come out of retirement to preside over this hearing, said he wasn't prepared to rule. Francisco was going to have to stay and listen to the opening statements.

In their effort to execute his client, Ridley now says, the prosecutors "want to demonize and dehumanize" Francisco Martinez. But after the judges get to know his client and the life he lived since childhood and "the forces" that formed who he became, they will realize Francisco had "a relatively small amount of moral culpability" compared to the others.

"How do you take into account so many intangibles?" Ridley asks. What role did alcohol play? What part could be attributed to "another drama" that was taking part in the house--the "quoting," or beating into the gang, of Jacob Casados? How much did all that "testosterone" have to do with what happened to Brandy DuVall?

Ridley points a figurative finger back at Danny Martinez, just as Danny's lawyers had done a few weeks earlier to Francisco. "How do you account for the leaders who make the decisions and call the shots?...No one disputes that Danny Martinez was the leader and founder of the Deuce-Seven with his brother, Antonio.

"Given the madness, complexity and chaos of the evening," he warns, it would not be legally or morally right "to pick out one to punish with death."

Like Danny before him, Pancho sits quietly and listens to his attorney badmouth his best friend. Back when it might still have been possible for Danny to plead guilty in exchange for life in prison, thus avoiding a potential death sentence, Pancho had told his attorneys to tell Danny that it was all right with him if Danny cut a deal.

Although prosecutors never made the offer, anyway, Danny balked at letting his friend face a death sentence alone. During the hearings when their lives were on the line, though, neither man protested their lawyers' condemnation of the other.

Danny, says Ridley, echoing the prosecutors' arguments from the last hearing, was "throwing the party at Uncle Joe's house...He was the one who had the most and greatest variety of sex."

Ridley also condemns Sammy Quintana, noting that he'd already killed another young woman, Venus Montoya, before Brandy was murdered. Venus was an unintended target, he adds. "He intended to kill Salvino Martinez," another Bloods gang member, "because Salvino Martinez snitched on the leader of the Deuce-Seven, Danny Martinez."

Sammy killed two girls and got off with 96 years in prison by turning state's evidence. Francisco, he points out, killed "only one." There is even evidence--a cut mark on Sammy's hand--that he stabbed Brandy himself, Ridley says.

As Ridley labels Sammy a killer and a liar, Jim Aber, the chief deputy state public defender, listens with his head bowed. He was the lawyer who put the deal together for Sammy Quintana, whose "truthfulness" on the witness stand he'd praised at Sammy's sentencing. In fact, he'd told Villano that he'd seen "more remorse and rehabilitation than I think in any other client I've ever seen." And yet he now sits on the defense side of the aisle as his client is vilified.

"We're not telling you that Francisco Martinez is not legally responsible for the death of Brandy DuVall. He is...he's been convicted," Ridley says. "Mr. Martinez should spend the rest of his life in prison." (This is just posturing, of course, since an appeal of Francisco's conviction is already in the works.)

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Steve Jackson