April 06--A Dallas judge fought back tears on Thursday as he handed down a 22-year sentence to the last of four teens sentenced in the killing of a man pushed into a South Dallas DART train last year.
"This was a bad day all day that looked like it was never going to end until something awful like this happened," state District Judge William Mazur told the 14-year-old boy, who pleaded guilty to aggravated robbery in the death of Octavius Lanier, 19.
"It is not with happiness in my heart that I find — that the court finds — that the juvenile needs rehabilitation, the juvenile needs protection," Mazur said.
Choking up, the judge stopped, looked into the eyes of Lanier's mother, Takeysha Harper, and touched his heart.
The boy's attorney, Allan Fishburn, had argued for leniency during a proceeding that lasted more than an hour at the Henry Wade Juvenile Justice Center. Those arguments apparently did little to sway Mazur.
"Son, this was never going to be anything but a sentence of years," the judge said.
The boy, who is not being named because he is a juvenile, will spend at least three years in a Texas Juvenile Justice Department facility. He could be released on parole after that, or he could be sent to an adult prison to serve the remainder of the sentence.
Fishburn and the boy's family declined to comment.
The three other boys charged in the case previously pleaded guilty.
Last month, a 12-year-old boy barely as tall as the judge's bench pleaded guilty to aggravated robbery in exchange for up to seven years in a juvenile facility.
A 14-year-old and a 15-year-old separately pleaded guilty earlier this year in exchange for 30-year sentences. They were said to be the most aggressive of the attackers, according to prosecutors.
Four other boys who were there during the attack were not charged because they did not have physical contact with Lanier, prosecutors said.
The boy sentenced Thursday was said to have pointed toward Lanier as they left the train before the attack, as if to instruct his accomplices to go after him. He also kicked Lanier in the head after someone else knocked him to the ground.
The two most aggressive boys continued beating Lanier until they knocked him into the moving train. The 110-pound Lanier, who walked with a slight limp, was dragged about 30 feet, severing his femoral artery.
Much like his accomplices, the boy on Thursday turned and offered some level of apology to Harper when he was told to do so.
"I'm sorry for what happened to her son," he said. "No one meant for this to happen."
According to testimony, the boy did not seem sorry immediately after the murder.
At the time of the Nov. 22 killing, the boy was supposed to be at a meeting at Jack Evans Police Headquarters for a first-offenders program in connection with a theft he allegedly committed weeks earlier.
He showed up late to that meeting and told officers there that he had witnessed the DART attack. His demeanor was as if nothing happened, according to testimony.
The boy is also an admitted three-year member of a Dallas gang who has been in two or three gang fights, according to testimony.
On the day of the killing, he and the other boys rode the DART train to NorthPark Center in North Dallas, where they committed thefts. They then hopped back on the train heading south as they scouted potential robbery victims.
There were others they considered before zeroing in on Lanier, who was on his way to receive diabetes treatment. They wanted his iPod.
So when the train stopped at the MLK Station in South Dallas and Lanier headed out the door, the boy in court on Thursday pointed at him.
"Push him," he told the 12-year-old accomplice.
The mob attack, which lasted seconds, was recorded on DART security cameras.
Harper has seen the video and listened to the testimony detailing her son's death.
She asked Mazur to issue a sentence "to reflect the gruesome incident that you saw on that tape. To reflect the appointments missed, the chances that were thrown away, the opportunities that were squandered," she said. "Somebody in this courtroom needs to learn a lesson, and it wasn't me by having my son taken away."
In an interview after the emotional sentencing, Harper said she believes the boy received a fair sentence. But it doesn't compare to her life sentence, she said.
"I would love to wait 22 years to see my son," Harper said. "I would love to go to visit him or write him a letter, have him write me back, but I don't have any of those choices; they do."
"I really feel like justice was served," Harper said. "Those boys will remember Octavius Desean Lanier's name for the rest of their life. There's no doubt now."
Copyright 2012 - The Dallas Morning News