By Charlene Muhammad CHARLENEM
LOS ANGELES (FinalCall.com) – Approximately six years after Britany Phillips was gunned down in front of a South Central donut shop, her mother, father, family and friends drew nearer to closure as a judge sentenced her killer to 50 years to life in prison.
The May 15 dialogue between court officials seemed very routine but for the 16-year-old’s loved ones, it was anything but mundane. After a near month-long trial, Miller Posey received 25 years to life for one count of murder in the first degree and 25 years for gang enhancement–being a gang member at the time of the shooting.
Clothed in blue scrubs with the words L.A. County Jail and “XXX” on the back, Mr. Posey leaned slightly forward, shoulders hunched a bit and looked straight ahead at the judge while she declared his fate.
But moments before, barely blinking, he’d fixed his eyes down onto the table right in front of him as Linda Jay, Ms. Phillips’ mother, seized the moment she’d been waiting for all those years.
“No. I don’t hate you, but you gotta deal with God,” Ms. Jay said, leaning over the small speaker’s podium, right hand on her hip. The L.A.-based, nationally respected community activist told the judge she didn’t want another Black man put to death.
She urged, instructed actually, Mr. Posey to spend his time in prison to educate himself and other gang members so they’ll come out of prison with a different mindset.
“God sits high and he looks low. You can’t hide anything. What’s done in the dark will come to the light. It took a long time for them to find you … I can sleep at night now, knowing that he won’t be able to kill another mother’s child,” she declared.
Britany Phillips was shot on July 29, 2007 and died the next day. It took police investigators until July 2011 to pinpoint the suspect.
Her parents credit God, working directly through two eyewitness and a community of supporters who rallied, marched and prayed with them in their quest for justice.
When one man entered the elevator to leave the L.A. Criminal Courts building after the sentencing, his co-passengers began clapping. “Thank you! Thank you, sir,” several said.
Why? clueless others on the elevator wondered.
“That’s our hero in the ‘hood! That’s our community hero right there! He was unafraid to testify and his statements saved the day,” Ms. Jay said with a beaming smile.
The eyewitness, who requested anonymity, gave 9-1-1 operators all the information police needed to seal their investigation. Prosecutors shielded his identity until the end, during trial, even from Ms. Phillips’ family.
“I’m not a hero,” the eyewitness told The Final Call. “I’ve got two daughters of my own and many grandchildren and nieces and I know how it was when I was looking at that. I knew. I knew,” he said.
His blow-by-blow account detailed an ugly tragedy that is unfolding in Black and Brown communities all across America. In this case, two men drove up in a car. One got out and sprayed a hail of bullets into a crowd of teens. He then fled and sped off in the getaway car, recalled the eyewitness.
In ignorance, some on the streets of America would call this humble hero a snitch. But, that’s why so many mothers and fathers are burying their children and at younger and younger ages, Ms. Jay argued.
Too often, drive-by’s go unsolved because either there really were no witnesses and, sometimes, people have simply been afraid to speak up because of retaliation and fear that law enforcement won’t protect them, she noted.
Statistics indicate more than 1,000 homicides go unsolved in an average year in California. Ms. Jay feels it’s due to the idea that if someone witnesses a murder or any wrongdoing, and they try to stop it or tell what happened, they’ll become victimized, too. By God’s grace, someone spoke up for her daughter, she said.
The star witness had already determined he’d testify in court when the time came, he said. But what Ms. Jay didn’t know was he’d been listening to her for years in the early mornings during “Front Page,” a popular talk radio show heard daily on 102.3 FM-KJLH Radio.
The station is owned by legendary entertainer Stevie Wonder. Ms. Jay has been interviewed about the case several times during the show, but she calls in regularly, almost weekly, about local and national community issues around police brutality, gang and gun violence, and politics.
“I was shocked to know he was listening to me. I was elated after I found everything out, and he could speak to me. He said he’d been listening to me for 20 years and he just had to come forward,” Ms. Jay told The Final Call.
Outside the courtroom, Terry Phillips reached for the gentleman’s hand, gave a long hand shake, and expressed his full gratitude.
“I didn’t get a chance to meet you … We just thank you for everything you’ve done. I know my daughter’s watching us right now and you’ve done a great job and I appreciate that,” Mr. Phillips said.