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Posts tagged as “A courthouse moment”

A Courthouse Moment: ‘You think you’re helping someone, but it hurts’

Durham Habitat for Humanity had been trying to help Victoria Dorsey buy a house since 2016. They set their sights on a new Chapel Hill Road home for Dorsey, her husband Otis Johnson, and her 13-year-old daughter Jamila Dorsey.

Over three years later, those aspirations ended in a Superior Court trial in courtroom 6A of the Durham County Courthouse. Onlookers watched as the trial morphed from an amicable discussion of mistakes to a resentful blame-game. 

When Lakeisha Minor, Habitat for Humanity’s family services director, was helping Dorsey close on the house, Minor ran into some roadblocks. First, Dorsey’s subletters missed a rent payment. Then, she falsified some work hours that she needed to purchase the home. 

As the Chapel Hill Road home construction was nearing completion, Dorsey still hadn’t paid off her debt. Habitat wouldn’t let her purchase the house until the outstanding debt was paid. 

“We decided that once the house was completed, then we would allow her to move in and rent the property until she paid off those collections,” Minor said from the witness stand.

On July 18, 2018, Dorsey signed a five-month, 13-day lease agreement with Habitat for Humanity. That would allow her to stay in the new house until the New Year. In the lease agreement, Dorsey agreed that she’d keep her debt under a capped amount. 

But in Dec. 2018, Dorsey decided to cosign for a new car, Minor explained. “When she was cleared into the (housing) program, it was clear that she couldn’t afford more debt. Her ratios were outside what she needed to qualify to purchase a house.” 

At that point, Minor urged Dorsey to take her name off the car loan. It was a recent loan, so they both assumed it wouldn’t prove too difficult. 

“But that didn’t happen,” Minor said flatly.

But Habitat for Humanity, again, gave Dorsey grace.

Habitat for Humanity granted Dorsey three more lease extensions, allowing her to rent the apartment from Jan. 1, 2019, through May 31, 2019, according to Dorsey’s affidavit. Each month, she paid the $650 rent.

In June, Dorsey didn’t extend the lease, she just handed over the $650. Habitat for Humanity accepted the money. 

But then Habitat ran out of patience. On July 9, 2019, Habitat for Humanity sent Dorsey a notice: it was terminating her lease, and she’d have to move out by Aug. 9, 2019.

“Anything from the defense?” Judge Clayton Jones said in a routine fashion. 

Dorsey’s attorney Sarah D’Amato stood up from the chair, seizing an opportunity to change the momentum of the case.

“At this time, I’d like to move to a directed verdict,” said D’Amato, a Legal Aid of North Carolina attorney. 

On Aug. 15, Habitat for Humanity had filed an eviction complaint against Dorsey. It was just six days after Dorsey should have vacated the home, D’Amato argued. And, otherwise, move-out dates don’t come until the term ends at the end of the month.

“Any notice to vacate has to end at the end of the term,” D’Amato said, citing case law from 1898. “Therefore, based on longstanding case law, you will find that the notice that was sent on July 9 was not sufficient notice.” 

“I’m going to side with the defendant in this case,” Judge Jones said, signaling that Dorsey won.

D’Amato and Daron Satterfield, the plaintiff’s attorney, shook hands. Then, D’Amato and Minor walked toward the exit: D’Amato with a grin, and Minor with her lips pursed. 

“It’s a catch-22,” Minor said. “You think you’re helping someone, but it hurts.”

A courthouse moment: ‘Tuck the sweatshirt!’

Phillip Williams might have seen the sign.

It was hanging off the door Williams used to enter Courtroom 4D. “Pull your pants up and tuck in your shirts,” it said in Comic Sans. “If you are not dressed appropriately your case WILL NOT BE HEARD…”

The sign outside Courtroom 4D.

If he saw the sign, he didn’t follow its rules. When his turn came to face District Court Judge Brian Wilks, Williams ambled to the center of the room, a pink sweatshirt hanging untucked on his lanky frame, boxers peeking over his jeans.

The bailiff took one look at Williams and heaved a long, loud sigh.

“Out,” he grumbled, gesturing for Williams to leave the courtroom, fix his appearance, and then return. Williams gave a half shrug, grabbing distractedly at his unfastened red belt and walking back into the hallway. 

When Williams strolled back in, he’d fulfilled half the requirements on the sign: the red belt was tighter around his waist, the boxers now safely tucked beneath jeans. “Straight?” he asked.

The bailiff wasn’t satisfied.

“OUT!” he shouted at Williams, directing him back into the hallway, eyes wide in disbelief. “Tuck the sweatshirt!” 

The courtroom erupted in giggles. Judge Wilks rested his head on his knuckles.

“Ahh,” Williams turned around for his second try, stumbling to the door of the courtroom as he shoved his pink sweatshirt into his jeans. He returned to the dias looking uncomfortable, a stray rumple of sweatshirt spilling over his belt.

The courtroom chuckles subsided as Judge Wilks leveled his gaze at Williams, who rocked from foot to foot, waiting for his scolding. 

“Man!” the judge suddenly exclaimed. “This is no fashion statement!”

Williams stopped rocking. 

“I guarantee you, if you see me not in this robe, off this bench, I won’t have my shirt tucked in!” the Judge joked. “Guarantee! ‘Cause it’s not cool!”

There came the wave of giggles again – muffled laughs into shirt collars, hearty guffaws from the back, and even a snort from Williams’ attorney. 

But the judge said there was a good reason for the rule on courtroom attire.

“The climate we live in these days… you never can tell what people got,” he said. “I’ve watched the safety video, and no lie – a gentleman as slim as you are, right? He had on a sweatshirt, and he pulled out about 19 guns and knives from around his waist. He even had a shotgun down his pants!”

At that image, two ladies in the front bursted into laughter, shoulder-to-shoulder in chuckles.

“See, if something pops off in this courtroom, I can dive behind my desk,” the Judge mimed bending over. “But that’s not gonna protect you all

“My job, and the deputies’ job, is to protect you. And to protect everybody that, unfortunately, has to come into this courtroom.

Back to business. “So,” he turned to look at Williams, “This is a motion to continue?”

Elsewhere in the courtroom, several other defendants waiting their turn before the judge quickly but quietly tucked in their shirts, sweatshirts and jackets.

A courthouse moment: ‘Nobody takes this court seriously. Nobody.’

On Feb. 23, Vi Ong was charged with felony larceny. He was ordered to pay $149 in restitution to Target and complete community service.

He’s also on the hook for an additional $200 of “court costs”: $147.50 for the “general court of justice” fee, $12 for the facilities fee, $2 for the DNA fee, and several others. Five dollars will go to an ambiguous “service” fee.

Twenty dollars of his court costs — 10% — go toward just setting up an installment plan for his payments.

Once he makes those payments and completes community service, his case can be dismissed.

Now, Ong is in court for a compliance hearing. Judge Pat Evans will be checking on his progress.

Ong tells the court he recently faced an unexpected expense; his car broke down, forcing him to pay for repairs. He asks Judge Pat Evans for an extension on his court payments. 

Already that day, Judge Evans had postponed hearings and, in one case, dismissed a judgement entirely. When younger defendants say they’ll represent themselves, she provides a motherly nudge and recommends that they apply for court-appointed counsel.

But she doesn’t have that kind of patience for Ong. 

When Judge Evans flips over the envelope with Ong’s file, she makes no effort to put on a poker face — her eyes widen when she realizes his case has been carried over since February.

She orders him to pay the entire amount — all $249 — by the end of the day.

“Nobody takes this court seriously,” she says. “Nobody.”

The courtroom is silent, save the low mutter of “She’s not playing” from someone in the back. 

Ong heads out of the courtroom, down four floors to the cashier’s office, where’s he’s expected to make a payment that he cannot afford.

“I’m a little bit confused,” he says, “because the last time, the judge told me that I have up to a year to do the community service and to pay.”

Just that morning, Ong says, the clerk reassured him that he would qualify for an extension and that he shouldn’t worry about having to pay yet.

Ong says that he doesn’t know if Judge Evans even remembers his case or what she told him at his previous hearing. He uses a credit card but says he doesn’t know how he’s going to be able to find the money this month to pay down the balance.

“So now,” he says, “I have to scramble to make up the difference.”

A courthouse moment: ‘You have the rope’

“Hey! Where are you going?” The court bailiff throws his arm in front of Jaquomie Samuel, stopping him from reaching the courtroom’s most sacrosanct territory: the judge’s dias.

District Court Judge Brian C. Wilks, today’s occupant of that dias, waves the bailiff off. “No, no. I called him up here,” Wilks says. 

Judge Wilks – a genial, bespectacled man – beckons Samuel towards him. Samuel shuffles up to the judge’s dias alongside his attorney, tugging up a pair of dark jeans. 

I’ve been sitting in the courtroom for almost two hours when Samuel is called up to the dias. The steady rhythm of District Court is almost never broken – an attorney calls a name, a defendant walks to the middle of the room, an attorney motions for a continuance or a stay or something of the sort, the judge agrees. It’s all painfully predictable – until Judge Wilks calls up Samuel.

When Samuel arrives at the judge’s dias, the two men begin whispering like old friends. Judge Wilks – one hand covering his microphone – nods and holds Samuel’s gaze while he leans in, explaining something. The courtroom is quiet. Everyone – defendant, attorney, and clerk alike – is watching the unlikely duo. One so powerful, one so vulnerable.

Then, as if the moment in confidence never happened, Judge Wilks waves Samuel away. He grants his motion and calls up the next defendant in line. The routine of district court resumes.

Outside the courtroom, Jaquomie Samuel sits on a bench next to his girlfriend.

“Why did Judge Wilks call you up there?” I ask him. “I don’t see that happen very much.”

“I know,” Samuel says, smiling tightly. “But he was the one who gave me a second chance.”

“He was a judge in juvenile back when I got a charge,” he continues. “I don’t even remember what it was for, but I was 15, and I was scared. He gave me another chance. Most judges don’t care, but he cares.”

For Judge Wilks, caring is one of his judicial responsibilities. “It’s part of my job to try to make sure people don’t come back to see us in court,” Wilks says after the proceedings. “If I have a chance to do that, I will.” The judge would not comment on the specifics of his relationship with Samuel. 

But Samuel remembers what Judge Wilks said to him years ago in juvenile court. 

“Back then, he said, ‘you have the rope to hang yourself,’” Samuel recalls. “And he said, ‘if I see you back here in court, you hung yourself.’”

A courthouse moment: ‘Nothing out of the ordinary’

At the witness stand, Andrea Arnold hesitated as she figured out which hand to place on the Bible and which to raise. Wearing a cheetah print blouse and large, gold hoop earrings, she grimaced in a way that conveyed both frustration and pain. 

Arnold was in court to testify about the evening she spent with her longtime friend Reginald Johnson on July 30, 2018. 

“I call him Crabs,” Arnold said. “That’s what they call him. I’m not used to Reggie, Reginald. I’ve known him since I was 8 years old.”

They spent time together every week, but that would be their last. The next morning, Johnson was found shot dead on the porch of his grandma’s home. Arnold said she was confused that he died after such a normal day. 

“He come, we chill, we smoke. We talked, laughed, watch MTV Wild and Up,” she said. 

“Did Reggie have some drinks?” prosecutor Alyson Grine asked. 

“That’s what he do. He likes to drink. He drinks Corona,” Arnold replied.

Arnold’s face turned red, and she tilted her head toward her shoulder. With each sentence she spoke, her voice became more distorted as if there was a growing lump in her throat. 

“Can I ask you to speak louder?” Judge James Hardin asked Arnold.

Arnold raised her volume a notch as she recounted driving “Crabs” to Waffle House and then to the Joy Mart on North Roxboro Street on the way back to his grandma’s house. Grine, the prosecutor, asked if this was ordinary. Arnold gave a long “mhmmm,” nodding her head.

“This is something we did all of the time,” she said. “The same mood, he was just drunk. He was laughing, joking. Nothing out of the ordinary happening.”

Grine stood up and carried a Durham map over to Arnold. It had the Waffle House, the Joy Mart, Arnold’s home, and the crime scene. Grine asked if Arnold could identify her house. 

“It’s right there where it says Andrea Arnold home,” she said, her exasperated tone noting the obviousness of the question. 

Then, Grine asked Arnold to trace her route back to Johnson’s grandma’s house. The first time Arnold testified, she hadn’t mentioned that Johnson went into the Joy Mart on the way back. 

“It was a shock to me that he was gone, so I wasn’t really thinking,” she said.

Then she looked down, in a contemplative way. She swayed back and forth and recalled how Johnson had spoken with a man at the Joy Mart.

“Everywhere we go, Crabs knew somebody,” she said. 

She dropped him off at the house. He got out of the car and tripped a bit. “‘I’m good, I’m alright’,” Arnold remembered him saying. Then she drove off.

Arnold breathed slowly and closed her eyes. 

“(His death) was hurtful and unexpected,” she said. 

A courthouse moment: ‘It’s filled with a lot of stuff I ain’t do’

Frederick McQuaig put his future on the line to shave a little over three years from his time in prison. 

In Courtroom 7C of Durham County Superior Court on Monday, Sept. 9, McQuaig was intent on trimming the state’s offer of 20 years and 11 months of imprisonment. His counteroffer was 17 years and 6 months.

He sat in a mostly empty courtroom next to his attorney Johanna Jennings from the Center for Death Penalty Litigation, a North Carolina law firm that represent inmates on death row. Although the judge and attorneys were discussing how long he’d be locked up, he didn’t show any emotion. 

In August, McQuaig had been arraigned on so many crimes it was hard to remember them all. The prosecutor, Ray Griffis, stumbled as he recited each case’s file number to the judge: robbery with second-degree kidnapping, 19 CRS 228; assault with a deadly weapon, 19 CRS 533; possession of a stolen motor vehicle, 18 CRS 57904 …

And a big one: a pending first-degree murder charge, though it hasn’t been arraigned yet. 

In an email on Aug. 20, the state had offered to wrap all of those charges into one global second-degree murder plea. The state would give McQuaig the least prison time allowed for that charge—almost 21 years. The offer was still available. 

Judge Michael O’Foghludha talked through the different offers, charges, and sentences, as if he was trying to keep them straight. 

“If the state’s offer was rejected, Mr. McQuaig would be going to trial in December on cases which carry the possibility of life imprisonment without parole. And then he would be waiting on a first-degree murder case, which carries the requirement of life without parole if convicted,” the judge said.

But McQuaig didn’t take the deal. The prison time difference wasn’t immense—but it was enough to matter to him.

“Mr. McQuaig and I had a long conversation about this,” Jennings said. “Mr. McQuaig continues to reject the state’s offer.”

“Okay,” Judge O’Foghludha said under his breath. 

Looking into McQuaig’s eyes, Judge O’Foghludha explained that the state’s plea wasn’t too different from McQuaig’s counteroffer. 

“(He’d have) the opportunity to essentially wrap everything up and begin serving a sentence that’s really only three years different from what would be acceptable to you,” Judge O’Foghludha said. “You understand that?”

“I understand, I understand,” McQuaig replied. “But it’s filled with a lot of stuff I ain’t do.”

“Alright, alright,” Judge O’Foghludha said.

Prosecutor Griffis said McQuaig had until Monday, Sept. 16 to accept the state’s offer.

But the deadline came and went. Now, he’ll go to trial for first-degree murder. If he’s convicted: A required life sentence without parole.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly gave a date for the murder trial of Frederick McQuaig. The story has been updated to reflect that the date has not been set.

A courthouse moment: ‘I do recognize this might be an inconvenience to you’

The bailiff rolled Sterling Whitted into Courtroom 7D in a wheelchair Monday morning. He looked around with wide eyes through his thick, plastic glasses. His black dress shirt, a size 40, was buttoned tightly.

“I think you need a size 44,” his sister Kecelliea Leathers said, smiling.

The start of Whitted’s murder trial became a family reunion for the Durham man and his sisters—the bailiff had to ask the family not to whisper while court was in session. 

But for approximately 60 potential jurors in the room, Monday seemed like a nuisance.

Whitted was charged with murder after the body of 43-year-old Reginald Johnson was found on July 31 at a Durham home where Johnson’s grandmother lived. 

Monday marked the start of jury selection for what Judge James Hardin said would likely be a two-week trial. None of the potential jurors seemed too excited about that. 

The would-be jurors filed into court silently and with straight faces. Most didn’t seem dressed for court. One man wore blue hospital scrubs. A woman came in a red Adidas shirt, false eyelashes, and white sneakers. Another was in gray sweatpants.

Judge Hardin ignored the heavy aura of boredom and annoyance and gave the group a warm welcome.

“Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. I’m going to introduce myself to you first. My name is Judge Hardin,” he said.

He introduced the bailiff, the court reporter, the attorneys, and the clerks, and mentioned the courthouse amenities. Meanwhile, sisters Felecia and Kecelliea Leathers slipped in and out of the courtroom, whispering about topics ranging from the proceedings to Whitted’s shoes. Kecelliea made expressive gestures and sighed as the judge spoke. 

Then, Judge Hardin addressed the thick air of dread in the room.

“There are likely other places you’d like to be and need to be,” he said. “I do recognize this might be an inconvenience to you.”

But he wasn’t going to let the jurors off easy. He said he’d only consider letting them off for a “significant and overwhelming hardship.” And, even at that, he’d probably defer their service rather than dismiss them. 

That didn’t deter some jurors from offering a range of excuses.

“I provide transportation to my kids, and one of my kids is in school everyday. My wife works and she picks them up … They go to Excelsior and ages are 7 and 9,” Charles Ross said. 

‘“Are you telling me that her employer won’t give her a little … ,” Judge Hardin paused to search for a word. “Latitude?”

Ross supposed his wife could ask, and Judge Hardin denied his request. Then Michael White took a whack at dismissal. 

“I’m not hearing well,” White said. “I’ve lost most of my hearing. I have a doctor’s letter stating that. I have a very difficult time comprehending conversation.”

Judge Hardin asked if he wore hearing aids. 

Not yet, but White has an appointment set for evaluation. Even then, White doesn’t know if he’ll purchase the aids.

“They are $3,600 … It’s a monetary issue,” White said. 

Judge Hardin granted him a 90-day deferral.

A courthouse moment: ‘Because it’s the right thing to do’

Courtroom 4D ran a bit like a zoo.

The electric candy-pop of someone’s phone accented the hum of whispers, laughs, and shuffling that was so regular it almost became white noise. There was an anxious itch in the air, each person in a hurry to leave the wood benches as soon as they possibly could. Meanwhile, Judge Doretta Walker bantered with courtroom latecomers, and no one seemed to mind one another.

A middle-aged man, wearing an oversized tweed coat over a grey pair of basketball shorts, stood before the judge ready to present himself in court.

“Go outside and tuck in your shirt, Mr. Williams,” Judge Walker sighed. “I should not see red underwear.”

Her voice was sharp, with the frustration of a parent and the sass of someone who had seen it all before.

On to the next case. “Shantal Parham,” the judge called out.

Parham, a 31-year-old with straight, black hair and a neat pink cardigan, walked up to the witness box to testify at Durham County District Court. She claimed the defendant, Jessica Smith, assaulted and threatened her.

Parham had filed for a restraining order and lodged a complaint with the magistrate months before the trial. Today, she wanted to find a resolution.

Parham spoke to the court firmly and with resolve. She recounted the day of the incident, April 4, which began with a visit to her apartment’s leasing office. After noticing that her rent was higher than usual, she sat down with the leasing agent, Jacqueline Washington, to sort out the bill.

This conversation caught the attention of Smith, the assistant property manager.

Tensions quickly escalated as Parham and Smith disputed the rent prices. Parham told the court that Smith blew up, shouted profanities at Parham, and began to get aggressive. Parham quickly called the police, who then arrived and filed an incident report.

Parham described walking to her mailbox with her children later that day, when Smith ran up to her.

“I ought to whoop your ass!” Smith said. Parham was taken aback.

Smith also suggested that as the property manager, she had access to all the apartments in the complex. “She said she’d watch my apartment, have someone stand in my apartment to watch me,” Parham recounted. “Mrs. Smith spat in my face.”

A collective gasp rose from the back of the courtroom. “Oh my god, that’s crazy!” The once apathetic crowd listened attentively to Parham’s story.

Smith, Parham claimed from the witness box, attacked her in front of her kids. That touched a nerve. She wanted the court to set things right.

“The state calls Jacqueline Washington.” The prosecutor turned his attention to the next witness.

Washington, the leasing agent, was an older woman with graying hair and a cool-toned jacket. She gave her version of the story, backing up Parham’s allegations. Her voice was crisp and dignified, full of the conviction that her truth meant something here.

“The treatment she received was unfair,” Washington said of Parham. “Mrs. Smith was not following the proper procedure.”

“I didn’t like the way the residents were treated,” Washington said. She had since quit her job at Falls Pointe Apartments. This incident with Smith played a large role in that decision.

“Why are you testifying today?” the defense attorney asked Washington.

“Because it’s the right thing to do.”

Washington’s words rang in the courthouse, which now stood silent.

The state found Smith guilty on two counts of misdemeanor assault. She would have to attend an anger management class and complete community service.

During the recess, Parham and Washington walked into the hallway together. They greeted each other with a warm hug.

A courthouse moment: ‘This is my freedom on the line’

On any given Wednesday in District Court, Judge Amanda Maris settles into her high-backed chair and begins to read names.

“Todd Burgess,” she calls out on this particular Wednesday, September 4. And then “Dinelle Allen.” And then others. When Judge Maris finishes her list, 12 people have shuffled to the front of the courtroom, facing her in a slipshod line. Most are young, black, and male.

One by one, Judge Maris calls out a name and begins reciting her script.

“You’ve been charged with…” she addresses each one, filling in the blank with “larceny” or “misdemeanor assault” or something similar.

“This is a serious offense,” the judge continues. “What would you like to do about a lawyer?”

“Court-appointed lawyer,” the first defendant mutters. “Court-appointed,” says the next. Eleven times, I hear “Court-appointed, your Honor.”

But when the last of the 12 stands alone in front of Judge Maris, she surprises everyone in the courtroom.

“I’ll represent myself, thank you,” the young woman says.

She is Davionna Mack, a slender 21-year-old with a pair of red streaks in her dark hair and chunky gold earrings hanging down to her neck.

Mack is charged with injury to real property, a first-degree misdemeanor. If she’s found guilty, she could spend up to four months in jail. 

But representing herself is risky. “Are you sure you want to do this?” Judge Maris asks after hearing Mack’s decision, raising her eyebrows at the young woman. “That could be a problem if the victim comes to court.”

Mack knows that, and she isn’t contesting her guilt. “This girl I know came over to my car in the middle of the night and busted out my windows,” she tells me after her appearance. “So I went to her house and busted hers.”

But Mack also knows how the criminal justice system works. If she accepts a court-appointed lawyer and is found guilty, she’ll have to pay back all the money spent on her defense. That’s on top of the $173 in “General Court of Justice” fees she already owes to the court, just by appearing in front of Judge Maris.

So Mack will represent herself. If all goes well, she says, the woman whose windows she broke won’t show up to court. Then, her case will likely be dismissed. But if the woman does show up? 

“I’d still rather represent and speak for myself than to have an attorney speak for me,” Mack says.

Back in the courtroom, Judge Maris questions Mack one more time. “You’re sure this is what you want to do?”

“I want to represent myself,” Mack repeats. Judge Maris shrugs and waves the young woman out of court, to await the date she’ll take to the well and represent herself.

“I’m nervous,” Mack admits. “I want to speak for myself. But, you know, this is my freedom on the line.”

A courthouse moment: ‘He hasn’t gotten enough time for what he did’

After he pleaded guilty to murder Tuesday, Travon Evans will spend at least 12 years in prison for killing his grandmother, Carolyn Hemingway, and stabbing his 4-year-old brother. He’ll get credit for the more than five years he’s already spent in jail since he was arrested.

But that sentence didn’t satisfy Hemingway’s brother Julius Robinson, who stood in the courtroom and addressed Evans.

“I am a Christian, but it doesn’t make it right for what Travon has done,” Robinson said. “He hasn’t gotten enough time for what he did.” 

Then, he asked why Evans did it. 

Evans whispered in his attorney Dawn Baxton’s ear. He didn’t want to answer. 

Baxton spoke on his behalf. “He does want the court to know and his uncle to know that he is sorry for what happened to his grandmother,” she said. 

Before the Tuesday hearing, the 22-year-old sat on a cold wooden bench with his head down, looking at the floor through oversized aviator glasses with his hands cuffed. His orange Durham jumpsuit didn’t hide that he had gotten much heftier since he committed the crimes when he was 17. 

Scarred by a violent household growing up, Evans had post-traumatic stress disorder. He was immature for his age, prosecutors said. That reduced his culpability, according to prosecutor Kendra Montgomery-Blinn.

With credit for time served, that meant he could be in jail for between six and a half and about 10 years in prison. That didn’t sit well with Robinson, who noted how Hemingway had cared for Evans. 

“She took him in at six years old and raised him,” he said of his sister. “She showed nothing but love for him.”

Montgomery-Blinn provided a detailed account of the crime. She said Evans had cut the lights. Police found his grandmother dead and bloody in bed. Beside her in bed were an unharmed baby soaked in Hemingway’s blood and a large kitchen knife. 

In the ambulance, his brother said what happened. 

“Tra had tried to make it dark and scary,” he said. “Tra killed my meemaw with that old ugly knife.”