The past three years has been an anxiety-filled waiting game for Dazie Williams.
Her son, 22-year old Joshua Dorrell Woods, was senselessly murdered over some Nike Air Jordan XI ‘Bred’ sneakers on Dec. 21, 2012, after waking up early with a friend to be one of the first in line to buy the tennis shoes at Willowbrook Mall.
After going to the mall and purchasing the shoes, Woods and his friend were followed and confronted by several young African American men who demanded the newly purchased shoes from them. Woods was eventually shot in the head and taken to the hospital, where he later died.
Having to deal with the constant delays and court resets that come along with allowing the justice system to run its course, Williams has been anxiously awaiting word that the four young men responsible for her son’s murder would finally be brought before the courts to answer for their alleged crime and provide the first step towards some much needed closure.
Barring another court reset and setback, it appears Williams’ hope has finally come to fruition.
According to Williams, a trial date has been tentatively set for Tuesday, Feb. 2, concerning the first of four young men who have all been charged with felony capital murder as a result of the murder of her son. Neal Bland, who ironically was celebrating his 18th birthday on the day Woods was murdered, will be the first to go to trial. It is believed that Bland, now 20, was the actual shooter and could be facing a life sentence without the possibility of parole.
Bland could have been facing the death penalty, along with his accomplices – Anthony Quinn Wade and Keagin Arrington, who were both 19-years old at the time of the murder.
In Texas, the shooter and their accomplices are all viewed the same according to the Texas Penal Code which declares that any person can be convicted of a felony, including capital murder, “as a party” to the offense under its “law of parties”. Although a person may not have committed murder, if it is proven that a person was involved with someone else while a felony act was being committed and as a result of that felony act a murder is committed, that person can be charged with and convicted of capital murder, and thus eligible for the death penalty.
Because of Texas law, a fourth suspect, whose name has not been released because he was a 16-year old juvenile at the time of the crime, would not have been eligible for the death penalty, because in Texas, as in any other state, people who are under 18 at the time of commission of the capital crime or are deemed mentally retarded are precluded from being given the death penalty by the Constitution of the United States of America.
The only crime for which the death penalty can be assessed in Texas is for capital murder, which is what three of the four suspects could have been facing, if prosecutors would have chosen to pursue that option instead of life without the possibility of parole; the entire situation is something Williams has bittersweet emotions about.
“I never wanted those young men to receive the death penalty for what they did to Joshua,” said Williams. “It’s hard to explain, but my heart won’t allow me to hate them and wish anything bad on them. It saddens me that a decision to follow my son and take his life over some shoes, some high-priced rubber, has caused a chain reaction that has negatively impacted two families’ lives.”
Woods’ mother is distraught behind the prospect of what these young men are facing and what their families will have to endure, but truly hopes that they will learn from their mistakes.
“Even though they killed my son, as a mother, all I have ever wanted was justice for Joshua and I just don’t want any other mother to go through what I have had to go through for over three years now,” said Williams. “I want the young men who murdered my son to know that I forgive them and that I don’t hate them for what they did. I know their families have a long road ahead of them and I pray for them as they go through this process, having to deal with the consequences of what they have done.”
Since her son’s murder, Williams has been an outspoken proponent of demanding Nike change the way they release the Air Jordan shoes and has dedicated her life to making sure something is done to stop the violence associated with the release of these shoes nationwide. Williams has started “Life over Fashion” (www.lifeoverfashion.org), an organization with a mission to challenge people to make the necessary changes, in memory of her son and to protect future victims of senseless crimes surrounding material possessions.
Woods was a hard-working young Black man, who worked two jobs, one in the evening and another overnight, to take care of his family and his responsibilities.
He was a responsible young man who was not only an organ donor, but was also a dedicated father, fully committed to raising his young son, Javon M. D. Woods, who was only 6 years old at the time his father was senselessly murdered over a pair of Air Jordan tennis shoes.
The Forward Times will be following the results of this first trial involving Neal Bland, and will also keep its readers updated as more details emerge.