TYRON LEWIS TRIAL--FAMILY TESTIFIES-Andrew Stelzer05/12/04
The trial of Tyron Lewis continued today in St Petersburg. Lewis was killed by a St Petersburg police officer in 1996, a civil disturbance followed, in which angry black residents set fires in the street, angry about another act of violence by law enforcement against African Americans. Lewis family is seeking a verdict of wrongful death, and wants the city of Saint Petersburg to pay them. Today featured testimony by several of Lewisâ€™ family members; Lewis families lawyers were attempting to show the jury how his death effected those who loved him. Pamela Lewis, Tyronâ€™s mother was the first on the stand. The familyâ€™s lawyers asked her questions about Tyron, her relationship with her son, and about how she felt when she found out that Tyron had been killed.
ACT â€œI was numbâ€¦did you go to the seen, I was trying to find out answersâ€¦what were those days like, it was just awful..finding out that your baby boy was killed?â€?
But lawyers for the city retaliated by painting Lewis lifestyle and family as unstable, and sometimes criminal. Heres William Drake, the cityâ€™s lawyer, questioning Ms Lewis.
ACT â€œHe brought his girlfriend Latoya to meet you between 1994 and 1995..that was the first time you met her..Tyron had lots of other girlfriends didnâ€™t he? This was the first one he ever met.â€?
Lewisâ€™ mother was also challenged by the cities lawyer, William Drake, when she said she didnâ€™t remember when he started kindergarten.
ACT-Tyron mom 1
And a significant moment occured when the cityâ€™s lawyers found differences between Ms Lewis testimony, and a deposition given by her last month. Although the disputed facts were not central to the case, they could bring into her question the truth of any of her testimony
When Lewis parents said Tyronâ€™s favorite hobbies were fishing and basketball, the cityâ€™s lawyer asked them if they thought that was a viable career, and if they reminded Tyron that one must stay in school to pursue a career in basketball. Heres how the cities lawyer began his questioning of Tyron Lewis father, Joe Hawkins.
ACT-Tyron dad 1
Third on the stand was Latoya White, the mother of Tyronâ€™s son, who spoke about how she is raising her son without his real father. She said she shows Tyron Jr letters from his father in which he asks about his son, who he never met.
ACT â€œWhen he wrote you back did you keep the letters? Yes, Why so my son would know what his father was writing, why so he knew his father cared about himâ€¦.he asks if his dad is up in heaven.â€?
Tyron died when his son was 14 months old. The citys attorney questioned Latoya White about her decision to change the childâ€™s name from Aaron to Tyron Jr, after Tyron Seniors death.
ACT-Tyron wife 1
Jean Laws Scott, the lawyer for Lewis family then re-questioned White, asking for her reasons for changing the childâ€™s name to Tyron Jr.
ACT-Tyron wife 2
Omali Yeshitela, of the Black activist group the Uhuru movement, has been observing the trial all week. He took issue with the way the cities lawyer painted a negative picture of a fatherless family, where the mother moves around frequently and receives help from family members in raising her children.
ACT â€œIf you listen to the testimony, the city is playing on the passions of the jury that is ignorant of the lives of poor black peopleâ€?
Yeshitala says the city of Saint Petersburg should settle with the family over the Lewisâ€™ tragic death, instead of spending so much money on lawyers trying to prove they were right, which may end up angering the community again as it did 8 years ago.
ACT They can win, the city the verdict and still lose the peace..and somebody needs to take responsibility for the fact that the officer did kill ..it seems that instead of sending these lawyers out here to fight the case, should settle to benefit the entire city
Stefana Hawkins view reinforced the nation that if jurors rule the city need not pay Lewis family, the black community will not be happy.
ACT â€œAll I want is justice for Tyron, heâ€™s the brother in law that I never had..and the cops should be behind barsâ€¦â€?
A verdict is expected in the case later this week, or early next week.