November 29, 2012
The Hon. Judge Warren J. Granville
Re: Sentencing of Marion Patterson
State v. Patterson CR2010-48707-001
Dear Judge Granville:
After two long years of dealing with the death of my son, Zachary Marco, at the age of 21, the investigation, the Criminal process, the implosion of my family as a unit, and the lunacy that is Mr. Patterson’s immediate family, I struggle hard to separate Mr. Patterson from his co-defendant, Louis Eugene Harper, two years Mr. Patterson’s senior and yet his nephew. I have an equally hard time separating him from his family. But I am trying to put myself in your shoes and I am trying to be as objective as possible. But the fact is, you have not been intimately involved in this case, save for a couple of hearings that had no real facts presented to them. You have not witnessed his family’s contempt for me, my family, and the Courts. You have not lived this case. You have not experienced the destruction of my family as a single unit. You do not know my son, his accomplishments, his drive, his ambition to be the best.
So the purpose of this letter is A) to give you my own thoughts about the appropriate sentence for Mr. Patterson; B) to give you an idea of what happened at about 9:26 pm on October 17, 2010; and, C) to represent my son, one last time, here on earth because he cannot represent himself. He is dead. He was shot in the chest with a hallow point bullet and bled out on scene.
Although difficult, I recognize, given my 24 years of Criminal Defense practice, that is precisely what needs to be done.
By order of culpability, there is no doubt that Louis Harper was the trigger man and that he, in fact, killed my son. But, Marion Patterson, a documented member of the Vista Blood gang, the most violent gang in Phoenix according to the police, played no little part in my son’s death. He is, by law, just as guilty of the murder of my son, as Mr. Harper, even though he did not pull the trigger. That is what the law is, there is no way around that fact.
By way of background, I was given unfettered access to the police investigation file and because of my 23 years as a Criminal Defense Attorney, I am quite experienced in reading statements and culling truth from fiction. Based upon that review, I am able to put the last few moments of my son’s life in narrative form. The following is the synopsis I used in Mr. Harper’s sentencing:
The night before the murder, Mr. Harper and his Uncle, Marion Patterson sent texts to each other indicating that they need to do a “lic” (which is street lingo for robbery, or something bad that is going to happen to someone) because they needed some “racks,” meaning money. Obviously, they had robbed before so, while they had no particular victim in mind, they knew who to look for. Living near campus they knew students often walked alone carrying valuable equipment, such as laptop computers and cell phone, IPODS, that sort of thing.
The next night, Mr. Harper convinced some girls that he needed their car and they brought it over. After picking up Mr. Patterson, Mr. Harper and another girl, they decided to go to Mr. Patterson’s residence to hang out, which is south on Rural Road from the intersection of Rural and University in Temps, AZ.
Unfortunately, at the exact some time as the car carrying Harper and Patterson reaches that intersection, intending to turn left, or south onto Rural from University, my son, carrying his laptop computer case and listening to music on his IPOD was walking home from the Arizona State Library after a night of studying. At about 9:20 he approached the intersection of Rural and University, walking east on University.
The light turns green. My son begins to walk across the street. As he reaches about the mid-way point, the car carrying Mr. Harper and Patterson turns left and executes the turn immediately behind my son. Mr. Harper says, out loud; “He has a laptop.” He and Patterson have a quick conversation and Harper instructs the female driver of the vehicle to execute a u-turn and then to turn right onto University, following my son. Because she had an idea what Harper intended to do, the driver actually missed the right hand turn and drove through the Rural and University intersection. Mr. Harper instructed her to take the next right. They do and they come out on University and drive behind my son. Mr. Harper tells them to pull into a driveway. She does, stops the cars and Harper and Patterson get out of the vehicle.
Patterson gets behind my son and is asking him to stop and give them directions. Harper is, of course, behind Patterson. Because he was listening to music, my son could not hear Patterson so he repeated the request for directions a couple of times. Finally, Zachary stops, takes one ear bud out of his ear, listens to Mr. Patterson and tells them he cannot give them directions.
Patterson then grabs for the computer bag. My son, all 5’4” of him, takes two hands and pushed Patterson to the ground. While he does that, the computer comes out of his grip, flies into the air and lands at Mr. Patterson’s feet. (Clearly, at this point the Zachary’s laptop breaks. The screen was cracked and damaged in the fall, so in the end, my son’s life was taken for nothing.)
Zack turns and sees Harper.
Now, in Mr. Patterson’s statement, he says that a scuffle ensues and that Zachary grabs for the gun, and that he and Harper fought over the gun which goes off. I think that Patterson here is just trying to make it look like an accident to help his older nephew. There is no evidence that the shot that killed my son was from close contact. There was no powder burn on his skin or on his shirt. Consistent with that, the medical examiner concluded that the shot probably was fired from a few feet away, which makes sense.
Having just seen the ease with which Zachary dispatched Patterson, Harper, the ultimate coward, just raised the gun and fired. He hit my son just below his left nipple. The hollow point bullet did what it was designed to do. That is it fragmented and pierced his heart causing him to immediately and quickly bleed to death.
Harper tells Patterson to grab the laptop because it might have fingerprints on it. He has the presence of mind to search for, and find the ejected shell casing (the gun was a glock) and then instruct Patterson to run to the car.
Once in the car he instructed the driver to DRIVE DRIVE DRIVE. As they once again approached the intersection of Rural and University, he instructed the driver to cut through a business and through a parking lot, rather than go through the intersection, out of fear for the intersection cameras.
Inside the vehicle, Mr. Harper, quite proudly showed off the shell casing.
There are conflicting reports about what he said about the shooting. One is that it was an accident, that he just raised the gun and it went off. The other was that he thought that my son was going to punch Patterson, whose nickname is Bop. (“He was going to punch you Bop.”) But what is certain is that he instructed Patterson who, somehow got possession of my son’s cell phone, to take the battery out of the phone so that they could not get traced through the cell towers. Patterson obliged.
A couple of days later, Patterson’s mother sees a box on the upper shelf of a closet where Patterson put the laptop and case after Harper asked him to get rid of the evidence. Patterson’s mother sees the box and, thinking its contents garbage, took the box to the nearby Safeway Store. Instead of placing it into the garbage bin, she laid it down next to the it. An employee saw the bag, opened it up and associated the laptop with the murder of a boy in Tempe because she had seen the media stories on TV. The rest is just good, old fashioned police work. I am sure this fact catches Mr. Patterson completely by surprise.
So, Marion Patterson is more than just a little culpable in my son’s death. He knew, for example, that Harper was carrying a gun that night. He knew that there was an intention to rob. He made the initial contact with my son and certainly, had they not been arrested, he would have never turned himself in. In fact, when approached by the police for his arrest, he took flight, running through a series of back yards. Under a bush in one of those yards was a gun Mr. Patterson tried to hide while running. Yet another gun. Clearly, the simple fact that my son was dead, that he had participated in a murder, was NOT reason enough to cast away firearms.
Finally, I firmly believe Mr. Patterson lied when he told his version of the events that terrible night to the Maricopa County Prosecutor’s Office. He wanted it to look like Louis Harper shot Zachary by accident, to help his older nephew out, but the evidence in the case simply does not bare that out; nor do the statements attributed to Mr. Harper by the other two in the car “He was going to punch you Bop.” BUT Louis Harper was answering Mr. Patterson’s question at that time “What did you do that for?” And, when the gun shot rang out, Mr. Patterson apparently yelled out “Shit!”
My Recommendation and Request
I have been in the unfortunate position to study the demeanor of Mr. Harper and Mr. Patterson over the course of the last two years. There is, from what I have seen, a stark contrast. While Mr. Harper was and remained threatening towards us and detached from my son’s death (he clearly acts more like the balance of the family one of whom was arrested at the Harper sentencing hearing for disruptive behavior) Marion Patterson seemed to just want to steal looks at his mother and go about his business. We never locked eyes. He never overtly threatened my family and he otherwise looked like he was just trying to get through the process.
That having been said, I cannot state with any certainty that Mr. Patterson feels remorse, beyond getting caught, although his attorney seems to think that he does. But that lack of certainty causes me not to factor remorse, or lack of remorse, into the equation. What I can say is that Mr. Patterson planned, participated in and was a major actor in the death of my son, my best friend in life, my future law partner and a person for whom I, not just as a father, had a deep and abiding love and respect.
Zachary’s death devastated my family, extended and nuclear. We are a house divided as his mother and I have gone completely separate ways and all we are waiting for is the Judge to sign the final decree. My parents have attended the funeral of their third grandchild, though this is the first through violence. My children, Zachary and my daughters Kathleen age 21 and Michelle age 17, were always very close but there was no doubt that Zack was the leader of the bunch. Now, both of his sisters struggle with attachment and, while they are very close, even closer than ever before, to each other, they are not developing close relationships outside of the family unit.
I ask you as a father: What does a father say to a daughter who just realized that she has lived one day longer than her older brother? What does a father say when his youngest daughter tells him that the schools treat her grief as institutional burden and places her in a room, alone, to cry, rather than display compassion and understanding, because she needs to “just get over it?” What does a husband say to a wife when he decides that the only thing that matters is seeing to it that his son’s killers are brought to justice because he promised his son that is exactly what he would do, just before pushing his body into the crematory furnace? And what do I tell myself, when, now that I am conscious again, and I look around me, and I only see remnants of a life that once was once so good, and so whole and so fulfilling?
I was a career Criminal Defense attorney and was just getting going in Arizona (my Criminal practice thrived in New Mexico and Ohio) when they struck down my son. Now, without the stomach for Criminal defense, at the age of 52, I have been left to build a new practice which is finally coming together. Until recently, my financial lifeblood had been excised. I am though personally, emotionally, and intellectually exhausted.
And as to his mother, Claudia: I have seen the depth of a mother’s love for her children because that place where she kept Zachary was ripped out of her soul and dumped at my feet. I just do not know what else to say. She is devastated. She is different. As am I.
So, what is a Judge to do? On the one hand, Mr. Patterson is about to be punished for the murder of a bright ASU honor’s student with no horizon on his future; an act which demolished a familial unit.
On the other hand, Patterson crossed his insane family and agreed to testify against his older nephew, even though I firmly believe he was not completely forthcoming in his version of the moments leading to the gunshot. This has to be given some weight even though his main motivation may have been to save his skin from a life sentence. Who knows? He, God and the Devil are truly the only ones, I guess.
The range of possible sentences here is 14 to 19 years if memory serves. If you give him 14 years, you diminish the memory of my son. If you give him 19 years, you diminish the value of his decision to testify against Harper, no matter its motivation, which ultimately led to Harper’s plea I would imagine. Plus, prison is no place for someone who agrees to testify against another Blood gang member. I know that and I can assume so does Mr. Patterson.
Despite all that, I believe my son’s life should be given greater weight. I therefore am asking this Court to sentence Mr. Patterson to 17 years in prison. If Mr. Patterson displays true remorse at the sentencing, that will be nice but it comes a little too late. Zachary is dead. No apology can change that. No amount of wishing it hadn’t happened will put my family back together again. Besides, my clients were all well rehearsed in the art of remorse, so I look at a defendant’s sentencing statement with a bit of jaundiced eye.
But I do have one final comment, and I have said this before to others who seem rather surprised. I do see in Mr. Patterson a birthday candle’s flame of something good. I cannot quite put my finger on it. Claudia has noted the same thing. Maybe it’s because anyone but Hitler, standing near Mr. Harper, would, by comparison, appear to be an angel. I am not certain. But I hope Mr. Patterson spends his time in prison communing with God and books rather than gang members and drugs because the winds that blow through prison are more than capable of blowing out a birthday candle. I hope he comes out better than when he enters, but then, he would be the exception to the rule, wouldn’t he?
After writing the above, I received a note from Mr. Patterson, through his attorney, addressed to me and Claudia. In it, he asks for forgiveness and alleges a conversion to God.
As for forgiveness, that is not my place. I can neither forgive the death of my son nor forget his life. Zachary’s death is now simply a part of what is left of my life; no matter where the fault lies. Carrying hatred around my neck like a yoke on an oxen is more of a burden than I need now and I will not tote it around for others to see. There is no sense to it.
As to Mr. Patterson, I do not feel hatred; I feel no more than ambivalence.
Thus, I think Mr. Patterson first must ask for Zachary’s forgiveness; not mine and his mother’s or his sisters’. What was stolen belonged to Zack, not us. It is Zack’s future that is gone for good: his zeal, his desires, his smile, his laugh, his drive and ambition. We were merely around to observe those things and to rejoice in them. We may miss them a great deal but we are simply collateral.
Second, Patterson’s belief that God has forgiven him is personal and I have no comment as to that.
Third, there is a difference between secular punishment and personal forgiveness; the law, not God, commands prison time and that is what we are dealing with here.
Finally, I do hope Mr. Patterson finds some fulfillment of life. He will be probably about 30 years old when released. His life has not been stolen like it was a cell phone or a laptop computer to be sold to a pawn shop. No, he still has time. If he wants forgiveness, he can demonstrate his personal resurrection to others. He must convince the world that he has changed; that he has empathy and emotion, and a desire to speak and do good acts for others. He need not convince me or even you, your Honor.
Ten or so years from now, when he gets out, when he has nothing to gain by the acts, then, it is the world that should and will hold him to task. And if he falters, like so many others before him, he will simply walk back into prison.
That is his choice, just like the choice he made to follow Mr. Harper’s lead.
Thank you for your time and attention in this most personal and devastating case. On behalf of my family, I thank you, The Tempe Police Department, Cleve Lynch of the Maricopa County Prosecutor’s Office, the Phoenix Gang Task Force and the Maricopa County Sheriff Deputies who displayed such compassion while protecting me, my family and the Court from the less than stellar family members of both these defendants.
Very truly yours,
Daniel J. Marco