Further Delays For Families Of Alleged Gunmen In USC Shootings
“Can I squeeze in with you ladies?” the sky-high black bedazzled heels say. “I’m skinny, I promise.” I look up to find the indeed skinny birthmother of Javier Bolden, one of the young men accused of murdering two Chinese USC graduate students in April.
Green-Chaskley snuggles in on the court pew beside me, scooting over to make room for another woman—younger, with more casual taste in shoes. But Green-Chaskley seems to regret her seat choice once she discovers I’m a journalist. “Why you asking?” she says when I bring up the USC shootings. “I’ve just got so many reporters coming at me," she says quietly to her companion. "It’s a lot.”
It had been a long summer. In May, Green-Chaskley learned her son Bolden had been arrested on suspicion of gunning down Wu Ying and Qu Ming, two 23-year-old electrical engineering students, near USC’s campus in the early hours of April 11. Since then, details of Bolden’s character and that of his alleged partner in crime, Bryan Barnes, have trickled out via social media and apparently relentless hounding of the families.
“Are we just surrounded by media?” Green-Chaskley says to her friend, temporarily letting go of her hand to whip around and eye the Chinese reporters behind us. She is clearly rattled, and moves when she spots her husband, Unique, on the other side of the courtroom. Surrounded by supporters—one young woman with heavy scars on her face wears a white tank top with red hearts and lettering, “Free Javier,”—they wait for Judge Shelly Torrealba to take her seat and set a trial schedule for Bolden and Barnes.
But Thursday’s court date is unsatisfying for the anxious friends and families. The public defenders ask for more time before setting an official hearing date. They cite an ongoing investigation by the LAPD Discovery unit, which the attorneys say has already amassed some 3,000 pages of case file material and more than 85 data and audio CDs. “I don’t think we’re wasting time,” Barnes’ lawyer Vernon Patterson says. The team rejected a proposed Oct. 24 date. “If we come back on the 24th, I don’t think our position is going to be any different.”
Torrealba, somewhat exasperated, grants a continuance until Nov. 20, nearly two weeks after the defense’s suggested Nov. 8. They’ll then have another 60 days to determine a schedule. “You all hear what’s going on,” the judge says to her courtroom. “You understand this is a major endeavor because of the volume of discovery [material].”
Addressing Bolden and Barnes in their glass enclosure for the first time, Torrealba asks if they waive their right to a preliminary hearing 30 days from now, per their attorneys’ request. “Yes, ma’am,” they mumble. Barnes leans with arms crossed on a ledge behind his defense team, his face inches from a metal bar. Bolden stands next to him, handcuffed in a blue jumpsuit.
“Enjoy your vacations,” the judge says, moving onto the next case. From behind me, a woman squeezed in beside the Chinese reporters mutters, “ ‘Enjoy your vacations’ while you sit in jail? That’s fucked up.”
With that, a sizeable portion of the courtroom’s 80 or so attendees rises from the wooden benches to leave. Bolden and Barnes’ supporters congregate at the end of the courthouse hallway to regroup, away from the still bickering attorneys. Green-Chaskley drapes hugs on those around her, attempting to make introductions. “This is my grandbaby’s mama,” she says gesturing to one young woman before pointing to another, “and this is Javier’s fiancé.”
Complicated family dynamics are familiar to the Chaskley clan. Unique seems partly to blame his stepson’s troubles on his on-and-off status as a father figure over the last 16 years. “My son’s a lot of things, but he is not a murderer,” he says. “I’ll go to my grave with that.”
Tall, with small braided knobs on his head and a script tattoo peeking from his black embroidered shirt, Chaskley is an imposing presence, especially when he speaks with conviction of a “wicked” judicial system. “A black man who commits a crime in California—it destroys him,” he says. Chaskley was released July 4 after serving time for a “crack conspiracy,” and recently served another 10 days for violating parole with three positive drug tests.
“Part of me wants to have faith in the system, but knowing what I know makes that hard,” he says. Seated nearby, his wife subtly signals that it’s time to leave by sliding off her fabulous shoes in favor of flat sandals.
Chaskley takes the hint. “I know there are going to be a lot of mistakes,” he says, shrugging. “He’s not a child anymore, and you have to accept the consequences for the mistakes that you made. But I wish the best for my son.”
Read more of Neon Tommy’s coverage on the USC homicides here.