Darrent Williams murder: Willie Clark's sentencing (live post)
Editor's note: Melanie Asmar covered today's sentencing of Willie Clark, who was convicted of murdering former Bronco Darrent Williams. To follow the event in chronological order, read from the bottom up, and click here to check out Asmar's original posts from the trial.
Darrent Williams, left, and Willie Clark, the man convicted of killing him.
2:55 p.m.: The hearing is over. Demond Kennard, Williams' cousin, speaks to the press. "Nothing is going to bring D back," he says. "But we're pleased with the sentencing."
"I'm pretty sure D wasn't the intended target," he says of the shooting. But he says he wants Clark to know that "he took out someone very special."
He also says he sensed "a little remorse" from Clark today.
2:48 p.m.: Clark leaves the courtroom, escorted by guards.
2:45 p.m.: Habas sentences Clark to life without the possibility of parole for Williams's murder. She also sentences him to 72 years in prison for each of the other sixteen people who were in the limo.
"Mr. Clark, I will simply say, from where I sit, even though you know you're spending your life in prison... you, too, can be a good person and make a change and make a difference, if that's what you choose to do with your life," she says.
Throughout the sentencing, Clark was quiet and attentive. He looked at each of the victims as they spoke, and looked at the judge as she sentenced him.
2:42 p.m.: Twining asks the judge to sentence Clark to the maximum: life without parole plus 1,152 years in prison for the non-murder charges he was convicted of. He also asks that Clark pay $19,227.94 in restitution.
He says the maximum sentence sends two messages: "One, that Willie Clark won't kill or injure or terrorize any innocent people again. The second message... is that our community won't tolerate this kind of... wanton violence."
2:40 p.m.: Williams's cousin is the last to testify. "Darrent was special, there's no question about that," he says. "And a convicted murderer has taken that away." A total of eight members of Williams' family and friends testified.
2:35 p.m.: Rosalind Williams, Williams's mother, testifies.
"I always wondered what I would say on this day if it ever came. I've had a speech all written out and everything and I'm going to change it... because of Mr. Clark's wishes.
"I lost my son and I can't get him back. He'll never come back to us. But Mr. Clark still has life. I think as long as you have life, there's opportunity you can change. For you to help someone.
"You know, I sat in this court for almost three weeks and I watched Mr. Clark each and every day. I watched his family, his mom, his dad, his aunts, his uncles, sister. I know they love him... They still have him to hold, to call, to write. This was such a senseless crime. I know he's still saying he's innocent, but for each and every person who was in the vehicle, you guys are all guilty. Admit that. Show some remorse. Make your mom, make your dad proud. My son certainly made me proud. And I think there's still hope. I really do. They'll be able to visit him in prison. I have to go visit my son at the cemetery.
"I'm no different than any other mother who has lost her child to violence. I hurt. I cry. I have sleepless nights. I get angry and want to grab someone and choke them. I pray. Though I question God and things like that and why did this happen. But through it all, I've met a lot of wonderful people.
"Violence is so common in our community... And I'm talking about the black community also. We look at this and we see it on the news and we just go on to the next story... When is it going to stop?... A drive-by. What's a drive-by? Drive-bys are for cowards. Whatever happened to the good old days when you'd have a fistfight and then you'd live to see another day?
"Now when someone tells me Happy New Year, it hurts. Happy Mother's Day, it hurts. Because my baby will never be able to tell me Happy Mother's Day again.
"His children, oh God, his children. They'll be okay because they have a strong mother and a strong support system behind them.
"While [Clark] is in prison, thinking, I just hope he finds God."
2:25 p.m.: Monte Coleman, one of Williams' friends from Texas who was in the limo that night, testifies. "My life will never be the same," he says. "I didn't plan on speaking today, but it's not about me. It's about D-Will. And I knew if I were to have died that night, he'd be here for my family. Because of his heart and the kind of person he was. He always had his arms out, looking to help somebody."
As for Clark, he says, "I know he wish he could take it back, but that's something that can't happen."
2:20 p.m.: Two of Williams' aunts testify.
"Not a day goes by that we don't think about him," one of them says.
She adds, "I didn't see no kind of remorse from the defendant."
2:05 p.m.: The mother of Williams's children, Tierria Leonard, testifies.
"Three years have passed, and I still haven't been able to explain to my children why their father was murdered," she says.
She says their children have suffered since their father's death. Their son was seven-years old at the time and their daughter was even younger. Their son, she says through tears, "did not completely understand that death was so final. After D was buried, he asked me if his dad had a cell phone in the casket. I told him he didn't. He knew if his dad had his phone, he would answer."
She says after Williams's death, she took a year off of work to deal with her grief and depression. She says their son became angry, and their daughter was afraid to run track because she was scared of the starting gun.
Now, she says, she's back at work and her daughter is back on the track. Her son plays pee-wee football and hopes to one day play in the NFL.
"The guilty verdict gave us a sense of relief," she says. "We hope Willie Clark will have to pay for his selfish decision. He has taken so much from us and now it's time to take something from him."
1:55 p.m.: Hutt asks Habas to reconsider her decision. "This is someone who has maintained his innocence," he says of Clark. "He knows he's about to be sentenced to life without parole plus 1,100 or 1,200 years for something he didn't do.
"The only purpose of this [sentencing] is the theater of venting."
Habas declines to reconsider. "There may be people in this room who view this as a spectacle or a circus," she says, "but I'm not one of them."
1:50 p.m.: Judge Christina Habas rules that Clark has to sit in the courtroom. She says she doesn't want to deny the victims the "cathartic" effect of addressing the court in Clark's presence.
1:45 p.m.: Clark walks into the courtroom, escorted by guards. He's wearing a tan-colored button-down shirt and khaki pants. He sits between his lawyers, Abraham Hutt and Darren Cantor. When he walks in, two media photographers stationed on either side of the judge snap photos.
Clark signed a waiver this week asking to waive his right to be at his sentencing today. In other words, he's requested to not be in the courtroom. Williams's family is expected to testify about how his death affected them.
Prosecutor Tim Twining tells the judge that he believes Clark should be here and have to listen to the testimony. Cantor, on the other hand, argues that Clark has a right to not be here, especially given that the hearing is being televised. "What we're doing here is forcing Mr. Clark to be on television," Cantor says.
Plus, he adds, Clark's sentence is "a done deal."
1:32 p.m.: Clark's sentencing is in the same Denver District Court courtroom that hosted his trial. One side of the gallery is reserved for Clark's family. The other is reserved for Williams' family. Several of Williams' friends and family members are here, including his mother and one of his friends from Texas. However, the rows reserved for Clark's family are empty.
1:23 p.m.: Westword is live blogging the sentencing hearing of 26-year-old Willie Clark. It's scheduled to start at 1:30 p.m.
Clark, a purported Tre Tre Crip gang member, was convicted last month of murdering Broncos cornerback Darrent Williams in a drive-by shooting on New Year's Day 2007. Prior to the shooting, both men were at a nightclub near 10th Avenue and Broadway, celebrating New Year's Eve. Williams was with other Broncos, including Brandon Marshall, as well as with friends from his hometown in Texas. Clark was purportedly with several of his friends and associates.
At trial, prosecutors said Clark and at least one of his associates, Daniel "PT" Harris, got into an altercation at the club with the Broncos entourage. When Williams and several others eventually left the club in a white Hummer limo, Clark and three other men, including Harris, followed in a white Chevy Tahoe that belonged to another Crips gang member. According to prosecutors, Clark and another unknown gunman shot at the limo from inside the Tahoe. The shooting, prosecutors said, was in retaliation for feeling disrespected by the Broncos at the club.
Williams was shot in the neck and died almost instantly.