An emotionally charged trial that began with the tearful testimony of a father whose 10-month-old baby and best friend were killed by gang violence ended Wednesday with the conviction of two gang members.
Found guilty of two counts of first-degree murder was Jimmie L. Bowen, who was 16 on Dec. 13, 2008 when he walked up to four men playing dominoes in front of a Brownsville house and shot and killed Pierre Roche, a 27-year-old drug dealer who was encroaching on the territory of the “New Moneii” gang.
Bowen, known as an “enforcer,” also wounded Christopher Smith, then shockingly turned his handgun on baby Derrick Days Jr., who was sitting on his father’s lap.
The father was not wounded and Smith survived, but the child, who was shot in the back, died shortly after arriving at the hospital.
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Bowen’s accomplice, Bernard M. Jones, was 17 when he waited around the corner inside a white Dodge Ram to spirit Bowen away from the murder scene. Jones was also convicted on Wednesday for his role in the killings.
After a week-long trial and half a day of deliberation, the jury also found Bowen guilty of two counts of attempted murder for shooting Smith and aiming at Days, the baby’s father.
Jones was convicted of one count of first-degree murder for his involvement in Roche’s execution, but the jury acquitted him of the charges related to the shooting of Smith, Days and the baby.
The two will be sentenced in September.
State prosecutors said the violent New Moneii gang controlled the Annie Coleman Gardens housing project, better known as The Rockies, in Brownsville.
Roche had been warned to stop selling drugs in the area, and he had been involved in previous shootouts with other members of the gang.
On the day of the murders, Bowen, on his way to meet his friends, saw Roche outside playing dominoes with the baby. He said he was going to “smash Roche,” and asked who wanted to “earn his stripes.” Jones eagerly agreed to take part in the attack.
The most disturbing testimony came from fellow gang member and key prosecution witness Terrance Yarborough, who said that Bowen intentionally aimed for baby Derrick thinking that Roche, who had been holding the baby earlier, was his father.
Yarborough was picked up for an unrelated robbery four days after the murders and offered to testify against the killers in exchange for a plea deal from the state.
He became the focus of the defense’s strategy as they tried to cast doubt on Yarborough’s character and the credibility of his testimony for the lighter sentence he would receive in exchange.
In a surprise move, Bowen’s defense attorney, Richard Martinez, suggested to the jury that the witness himself could have committed the crime.
Miami-Dade prosecutor Patricia Leiber hung her closing statement on the heartstrings of the jury, showing a photo of a smiling father and his young son — Derrick Days Sr. and Derrick Days Jr. — followed by the autopsy photo of the baby with a bullet hole in his back.
“This is what his victims looked like when Jimmie Bowen was done,” she told the courtroom.
Bowen and Jones were also convicted of a gang enhancement that will factor in their sentencing. Bowen’s verdict also carried an enhancement for the use of a firearm.
After the verdict, relatives of the victims said there was little consolation.
“Everybody lost,” said Derrick Days, Sr., the baby’s father.
“We lost our family, and now these mothers [Bowen’s and Jones’] have lost their sons.”