Miscarriage of Justice: a Mother's Perspective
Tuesday, December 19, 2006
I'd been away for awhile a few weeks back. Here's what I was doing and why I needed my space at that time. Some of you were already aware of the situation and have sent me your prayers. Thank you. Your prayers sustained me and still do. Don't stop. We need each other.
I am not a holier-than-thou pious Christian as is obvious from some of my posts. I do, however, maintain a strong faith in God and have much to be grateful for in spite of my loss. It was through this episode that I came to truly know God's grace and mercy. I'm not trying to get my preach on because that's not really me but my close-up and personal experience with the criminal justice system was much more painful from the collective than my individual perspective.
I saw young people, let me be more accurate, children far too young to be incarcerated wearing little orange Corrections Department jumpsuits and little handcuffs and little shackles. Shackled together like slaves in a horrible scene from "Roots." That may not be a big deal for some of you and perhaps I've been sheltered way more than I realized, but our babies shouldn't be in that situation.
We have relinquished control of our children to BET...MTV... XBOX... PlayStation... Nike... Phat Farm... etc., etc., etc. It's time to reclaim our children and return to our positive family values --- By Any Means Necessary.
Peace & Love,
Here's an op-ed piece I wrote for Tallahassee's Capital Outlook after the trial of Ryan Hubbard. Thank you again.
A mother's perspective
By Vanessa Woodard Byers
Special to the Outlook
Special to the Outlook
On Thursday afternoon, December 7, 2006 in Courtroom 3A of the Leon County Courthouse, 12 jurors declared Ryan Hubbard not guilty in the first-degree murder of my daughter, Jamila Byers and Bryan Dyson.
A first-degree murder conviction would have resulted in the death penalty.
I, like many others, expected him to be found guilty of second-degree murder, which would have carried a life sentence.
I was stunned by the verdict —- somewhat.
That day would end the 11 grueling days my parents and I spent in Tallahassee for the trial. Those days were unlike any other in all my years on this Earth. I cannot tell you that I was hurt when I heard the verdict because I wasn’t.
I’d already experienced the worst pain on September 14, 2004 when I had to describe any of my daughter’s identifying marks to the police. That was a pain like no other.
When the jury did not reach a verdict on Wednesday evening, I began to doubt the verdict would be guilty. The evidence in the case, as we already knew, was largely circumstantial because there was no weapon.
Between the cell phone records, cell tower pinging information, GPS information, testimony and fingerprint information, would the jurors get it? This was a jury of mostly middle-aged, white women. If they didn’t get it by Wednesday evening, I didn’t think they would get it at all, and I was correct.
Unless you were actually in the courtroom everyday from jury selection through verdict, you did not get the true flavor of the trial. The snippets on broadcast media and coverage in print captured some but not all of the important testimony and attorneys’ discussions.
There were moments when I thought I was caught in a bad composite episode of “The Wire,” “Law & Order” and “The Jerry Springer Show.”
How did the jurors miss this evidence?
Although largely circumstantial, I did, however, believe the evidence to be strong enough for a jury to arrive at a guilty verdict and here’s why:
1. Hours before the murders, several witnesses indicated that Bryan Dyson received phone calls from someone obviously anxious for a meeting. Cell phone call records indicate that Ryan Hubbard called Bryan Dyson several times that day.
Not a big deal when considered in isolation, right? How about if you knew that Ryan Hubbard called Bryan Dyson five times in the last 20 minutes of Bryan’s life?
Cell phone records indicate that Ryan Hubbard does not call Bryan Dyson after he has been killed. The cell phone numbers of others looking for Jamila or Bryan register on cell phone records after their time of death. Others continued to try to reach Bryan and/or Jamila by calling their cell phones, Ryan Hubbard, considered Bryan’s friend, does not. Why? Because Ryan Hubbard knows he’s already killed Bryan Dyson and he can’t answer.
2. Ryan Hubbard was a truck driver for Dollar General Stores. The GPS tracking system on the truck he drove does not register between the time of death of Jamila and Bryan but suddenly shows Hubbard in the Gainesville area. Hubbard’s cell phone is pinging off towers in Tallahassee while he was supposed to be in Gainesville? I don’t think so.
3. Linden Williams, brother of Ryan Hubbard’s girlfriend Deandrea, called his then-girlfriend, Kevonya Cooper, to have her lie to give Hubbard an alibi. That conversation was retrieved from a recorded conversation as Cooper was incarcerated.
4. Linden Williams and sister Deandrea also gave conflicting testimony about times dropped off and picked up. They even described different cars driven by Linden Williams to pick-up Deandrea Williams from Ryan Hubbard’s truck.
5. Hubbard’s fingerprint was found on the concave of the interior door handle of Jamila’s car. Antwan Robinson sat in the back seat a few minutes before the murders. That was no secret, as others knew he was given a ride home. Robinson’s fingerprints were not found on the door handle but Hubbard’s were because he was the last person in the back seat of that car.
6. The front passenger seat was pushed forward to make room for a large person. Ryan Hubbard is a large person.
7. State’s witness Marcus Gould perjured himself. Marcus Gould initiated contact with the Tallahassee Police Department not vice versa as he testified. In recorded questioning, Gould initially told Tallahassee Police that Ryan Hubbard confessed.
8. Ryan Hubbard’s fingerprints were on a note to inmate Michael Williams to kill Marcus Gould for $15,000. Williams, a convicted felon, was found truthful in a similar incident while incarcerated in Miami. Why would he not be truthful in this incident also?
Individually, these facts may not appear to rise to the level of believable beyond a reasonable doubt, but collectively they clearly indicate that Ryan Hubbard is guilty.
Some may say that I am prejudiced in my assertions but I’m not. Those who know me well will attest that to a fault, I can separate personal feelings and compartmentalize facts.
What the jurors didn’t know
What is most unfortunate is that this jury was not privy to background information on Ryan Hubbard as was the Grand Jury. Also, Hubbard was not required to testify in his own defense.
There was much the jurors didn’t know about this case. For example, not only did Ryan Hubbard confess to Marcus Gould and Michael Williams, he also confessed to wife, Venus.
Possible marital privilege not to testify against a spouse kept her off the witness stand.
Marcus Gould eluded law enforcement for several weeks for fear that he would be killed. After he was found and agreed to testify, he practically ran out of the State Attorney’s Office when he found out television cameras were in the courtroom.
While the jury was excused from the courtroom, Gould also attempted to assert privilege from testifying because he is a “spiritual leader or adviser.” For what reason would a person seek that privilege unless one has knowledge of crucial information?
Pain and suffering
I was constantly concerned about my parents during this ordeal. Both have their health challenges, yet they insisted on being with me and show their support for Jamila. Sitting there while the defense assassinated my daughter’s character and injected doubt about other possible actors was sometimes more than I could bear.
After the medical examiner testified there were no drugs in Jamila’s system, the defense abandoned that line of attack.
The relationships and circle of friends Bryan Dyson and Ryan Hubbard shared are interesting to say the least.
The anger and betrayal that Bryan’s mother, Edna Lynn Dyson, internalized surfaced as we waited on Wednesday morning.
Most of the witnesses were thought to be her close friends. She, like many others in that circle, is a convicted felon. This was not a movie or television show; these are real people with real feelings and families. Lynn Dyson is an intelligent woman far too young for her life experiences.
Less than a week out of incarceration, she was burying her only child. Suddenly, my pain did not seem as significant to me. She left the courtroom as the first verdict was read.
Right now, Ryan Hubbard probably thinks he’s bigger than God. No doubt his street cred has been elevated because of the trial. That’s the unfortunate reality of the society we live in. Just because that jury found him not guilty doesn’t mean that he didn’t do it.
As I think of the perjured testimony, the defense attorney’s attacks on the state’s witnesses who were not Ryan Hubbard’s friends, attempts to assassinate my daughter’s character and the verdict, I think what a mockery of justice.
I am reminded and I believe that God works in his own way and in his own time not ours. Ryan Hubbard is not incarcerated but he is not free.
P.S. Imagine my anger and pain to hear this testimony from Michael Williams, an inmate that Ryan Hubbard confessed to: "I asked him why he did the girl. What did she have to do with it? Why'd you cap her? He said, "Nothing. She ain't have nothing to do with it. She wouldn't stop screaming." (I had to escort my mother from the courtroom at that point.)
A lot of people are afraid of Ryan Hubbard. He is a very bad guy. Three witnesses have been placed in protective custody. Some of the potential witnesses, such as Antwan Robinson, have never been located.
Photo: Courtesy of my "niece" Caitlin Garcia
© 2006 VANESSA BYERS, Vanessa: Unplugged
Labels: Commentary, Family, News