NAPA -- Saying he was "touched beyond expression," by the Gee family's "capacity for forgiveness," a judge on Monday ordered the younger of two Vallejo brothers convicted of killing 16-year-old Anthony Gee in 2007, released from prison.
In impact statements delivered in court, Gee's parents said they forgive Marquis Rashawn Douglas for his role in their son's shooting death at a chaperoned, American Canyon Sweet 16 party. They expressed hope that he would "honor" their son by living a meaningful life going forward.
Douglas' murder conviction was overturned on unfair-trial grounds after he spent nearly seven years behind bars. He and his brother Junor were tried as adults and convicted of second-degree murder. Douglas' conviction on other charges were upheld, as were all Junor's charges.
After hearing Gee's parents express their hope that Douglas' adult life will be lived in a way that honors their son, Napa Superior Court Judge Michael S. Williams said he struggled to keep his own emotions in check.
"With Thanksgiving approaching, the Gee family is thankful for the time they had with their son," Williams said. "The Douglas family is thankful Marquis is coming home.
"I'm hopeful that he can follow this by impressing upon others to not make his mistakes and maybe save some future lives and help give meaning to (Gee's death) and that would be priceless to the Gee family."
In the courthouse hallway after the hearing, Gee's family and friends formed a prayer circle with Douglas' friends and family. Both mothers, Kathy Gee Jackson and Arnetha Warrior-Griffin, embraced and cried for their sons.
"I haven't stopped crying," Warrior-Griffin said. "It is so painful. It's supposed to be a happy day, and I'm happy my son gets to come home, but my other son took their son's life and that's very painful."
Gee Jackson was accompanied by several women she'd met at a support group for parents who'd lost children. She said she is under no illusions that the wounds of her son's slaying will ever completely heal, but she said making eye contact with Douglas in court convinced her his remorse is genuine.
Her husband, Al Jackson, said Douglas still must earn his redemption, but that Anthony Gee would have wanted him to be given that chance.
"Anthony was very spiritual and was always giving people second chances and was able to see the positive," Gee Jackson said. "Also, my mom always said when one door closes, another opens, and I see this as a door Marquis can walk through and make this world a better place."
This was the theme of Anthony Gee's father, Leland Gee, when he addressed Marquis Douglas in court.
"Honor my son and yourself, your mother, your family and loved ones by being the best person you can possibly be," Gee said. "Good luck to you."
Napa County District Attorney Gary Lieberstein referenced a letter he received from Douglas in prison suggesting the nature of life is about transformation. Lieberstein said he believes Douglas is not the same person he was when he was 16 and brought a gun to a birthday party to which he was not invited.
Douglas had brought the gun because the party he, Junor and a friend had planned to attend was in a rough part of Vallejo. But the plans changed and the trio wound up at the American Canyon party, Lieberstein said.
An altercation between Junor Douglas and other partygoers caused him to go for the gun, shouting "I'm gonna smoke you!," as he struggled with his brother for the weapon, Lieberstein said. Two shots were fired into the air and one into the crowded garage, striking Gee, who had only stopped by a half hour earlier because a friend had suggested he come, Lieberstein said.
Now, 23, Douglas said he's aware he's getting a second chance at life and intends to make the most of it. He said looking into Kathy Gee's eyes, "touched his soul," and he shares her sadness over the tragedy his actions set in motion.
"I'm no longer a confused kid with a confused sense of himself," he said. "I know I lacked self control, self esteem and had exaggerated fears. I accept responsibility, because there's a higher truth, of what my actions have caused. If I hadn't brought that gun to that party, this tragedy would not have happened."
Douglas vowed never to "be incarcerated again," to share his story with the community's youth, and do "anything possible to honor my victim."
Judge Williams articulated more than 30 conditions of Douglas' probation, modifying a couple and striking one requiring he wear an ankle monitor, agreeing with Douglas' lawyer that this might hinder his finding employment. Several people, including American Canyon pastor Morris Curry have promised to help Douglas' transition into life as a productive society member.
Contact staff writer Rachel Raskin-Zrihen at (707) 553-6824 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at Rachelvth.
©2013 Times-Herald (Vallejo, Calif.)
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