Derrick Days looked to the ceiling of the courtroom, as if to gather the strength to explain what happened on Dec. 13, 2008.
“That’s the day they killed my son.”
He remembered, from the witness stand, the day he was playing dominoes with three friends outside a Brownsville house on Northwest 22nd Ave. A gunman in a black ski mask began shooting from the sidewalk. Day’s best friend Pierre Roche, was shot in the back. His friend Christopher Smith was shot in the face but survived. His 10-month-old baby, Derrick Days Jr., was struck by a bullet while he was sitting in his father’s lap.
The child was dead by the time he got to the hospital. Roche died two days later. Two teenagers, members of the New Money Boys gang, were arrested five days later.
Jimmie L. Bowen, who was 16 at the time, was charged with two counts of first-degree murder and one of attempted murder. Bernard M. Jones, who was 17 at the time, accused of being behind the wheel of the Dodge Ram that sped from the scene, faces two counts of felony murder, one of attempted felony murder and one of accessory after the fact.
State prosecutor Patricia Leiber’s opening statement was ruthless in its depiction of what the evidence would show. She pointed to Bowen and Jones, the two well-dressed young men at the defense table, and called them murderers. She said they turned their neighborhood into “killing fields.” Leiber described the parking lot premeditation that preceded the crime: Bowen’s challenge to any gang members who wanted to “earn their stripes,” and Jones’ eager response. They were planning to “smash,” or kill, Pierre Roche who Miami-Dade police said was a member of a rival gang.
Bowen’s defense attorney Richard Martinez acknowledged that the facts of the case are hard to dispute. This crime was not an accident. There is no illusion of self-defense. Cellphone records place both defendants in the area at the time of the murder. Two people, the 27-year-old Roche and baby Derrick, are dead.
However, Tony Moss, defense attorney for Jones, the alleged driver, said that these facts do not necessarily “point the finger of guilt at Bernard Jones, Jimmie Bowen, or any other person.” He challenged the state to prove, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that Bowen was the boy behind the mask, and that Jones was the boy behind the wheel.
Central to the state’s case will be the testimony of a fellow gang member, Terrance Yarborough, who was arrested four days after the murders for his connection to a separate case of attempted murder. The defense attorneys called attention to Yarborough’s questionable credibility, both as a convicted felon and as a beneficiary of a plea agreement in exchange for naming Bowen and Jones. Yarborough is expected to take the stand on Wednesday.
Martinez, Bowen’s defense attorney, cautioned jurors that the world of these troubled youths was “alien” to most people’s reality. It’s a world of code names, fierce loyalties and street words that lose meaning when taken out of context. There were rumors and details about the murders flying around the community in the five days that passed between the crime and the day that the defendants were brought in for questioning. Martinez said that just because the court would hear these rumors recounted in harsh language on a police video, does not mean that the youths were guilty.
Baby Derrick’s mother, Shiketa Duberry, is a Miami Springs police dispatcher. Roche’s father, also named Pierre Roche, is Miami police officer.
There is no happy ending for a trial that seeks justice for two lives lost at the hands of a teenage shooter, and Martinez claimed that although the defendants had made errors in judgment, they were not guilty of the charges they face.
“If Jimmie Bowen were on trial for being stupid, he would be guilty. If he were on trial for being a gang member, he would be guilty,” Martinez said. “But he is not guilty of murder.”
Derrick Day Sr.’s eyes fixed on Bowen from across the courtroom told a different story. And the ragged tears of a father, describing the death of his baby son, begged the court for justice.