I let it drop for 30 minutes, then hesitantly brought it up again. "I just want to run something by you....."
Four years ago there was an horrific kidnapping and murder, all gang related. I met one of the relatives and have been following the case as it has wended its way through the judicial process. The trial finally began in April and ran for almost three months. Sentencing was this morning.
So I explained the situation and asked YG if he had any interest in getting up early to attend the sentencing in Santa Rosa. I stressed the early part. Oh, yes. He jumped all over it. Since the classroom visit he has been on his mother to take him to observe another trial. It's probably in his DNA. His grandfather is an attorney, his uncle just graduated law school, his mother was a legal assistant before he was born and now works in the criminal division as a county clerk and I spend time with young offenders.
"And you don't think your mom will mind that it's a murder trial?" I asked. I felt totally crass, reminiscent of the community gatherings in the 1920s when everyone turned out to witness a hanging. No, mom wouldn't mind. And later in the evening when he talked to her she was excited for him.
In 2008 the Asian Boyz killed a young man for offering evidence in a previous gang-related torture case of his own brother. He was living away from the area in a victim protection program, but when he came home for a visit he was taken to the beach, blindfolded and shot innumerable times, eight I think. There were four defendants on trial and two juries to render verdicts on this case.
This morning there were eight bailiffs in the courtroom to keep everyone safe. Gangsters were everywhere. The father and mother and brother of the victim all spoke about the hole in their hearts after the young man was killed. The father explained that the family had left Cambodia after the Killing Fields in order to seek a better life in this country. The victim was born here. The mother, through a statement read by an interpreter, told of the happy youngster he had been, how unselfish and helpful in the family business and how her heart was forever broken. The brother, who was in town just for this appearance but would soon be whisked back to safety, spoke passionately about the close bond he had with his sibling. All three live in fear. All three spoke of nightmares, watching their backs, how they often feel like giving up their own lives. All had diagnosable PTSD, that was obvious.
Two of the defendants spoke, one in Cambodian, one extemporaneously in English. "You people don't understand about gangs. I've been in a gang since I was yay-high, that's who I am." That's exactly the point I was making earlier, it's partially a cultural identity. At what point does a kid realize he has a choice and how might he possibly find his way out? The other two defendants seemed to be smirking throughout the hearing, even during a wrenching video of the victim's life.
With gang enhancements, with the kidnapping, with everything else involved there were years for this and years for that, but the end result was life in state prison with no possibility of parole. I hope that brings some peace to the family of the victim, but I know it won't.
Youngest Grandson had so many questions afterwards - good ones like "Who determines the actual sentencing time within the sentencing guidelines? and Who wrote the original guidelines?"
While we were in the county complex we went to the Parks Department to renew my annual pass. Then we went out for burgers and fries. A nearby pharmacy has a great postcard rack so we stocked up for our postcrossing.com projects. We tried to get back to what's normal for us - a simple life - but I can tell you now we've been forever changed. I promised to save tomorrow's article in the Press-Democrat covering the sentencing hearing. I'm glad I had his mother's permission to take him in the first place. He'll be grilling her for days to come.