There was some discussion Thursday during the sentencing of Richard Tyrell Carter about the shortcomings in parental supervision he received before he grew big enough, according to a jury's verdict, to murder Kevin Kent Burks.
His lawyer, in a sentencing memorandum for a mitigated term for her client, wrote that the 18-year-old Carter "had insufficient adult support and supervision for his entire life."
Assistant Public Defender Kate Carlson said in the document that the day Sacramento police arrested her client for the Burks murder, his mother was in jail on unspecified charges.
Carter's mother, Melvia Renee Morris, failed to get him past the ninth grade. She and Carter's stepfather, Anthony Morris, didn't always take care of the utility bills and once had the heat turned off on them, according to a court filing by Deputy District Attorney Eric Kindall, who said in the document the two of them battered each other.
After Carter had been arrested for murder, the parents did take a keener interest in his situation, but in a way that got them both in trouble.
According to a violation of probation petition filed against the two, Melvia Morris, accompanied by her husband, sought to dissuade the only eyewitness against her son by suggesting the young man "keep quiet."
When the witness's mother said the visit by the Morrises scared her, prosecutors relocated the family at a cost to taxpayers of $16,424.35, Kindall's court papers said.
On Thursday, when Sacramento Superior Court Judge Timothy M. Frawley was putting his 55-to-life sentence on Carter, Melvia Morris pounded the wooden wall paneling hard enough to draw a small swarm of sheriff's deputies to her seat in the back of the courtroom. Before they could hustle her outside, Morris pointed her finger at the judge and cursed him and the proceedings.
In an interview later, Melvia Morris, who is on probation as a result of her no-contest plea to false imprisonment charges, said she hit the wall and cussed the judge because "my son got 55 to life for something he didn't do." She said, "I didn't care" about the statements about her parenting. She denied trying to intimidate the witness, who testified at trial he saw her son shoot and kill Burks.
Anthony Morris, whose probation resulted from his plea to being a felon in possession of ammunition, took offense to the characterization of his upbringing of his stepson, saying, "I'm not unfit." He also denied the intimidation allegation, and he claimed Carter was "railroaded."
Their son had just turned 17 the week before Burks, 51, was shot and killed Oct. 11, 2011, while driving past a dice game taking place in the street on Decathlon Circle, near Mack Road and Franklin Boulevard in the southern part of the city.
The DA's trial brief and police reports said Carter, who was standing near the dice game, was "antsy" that he was about to get shot at in a drive-by. When Burks drove past the game in his truck, Carter fired a fatal, pre-emptive shot at somebody who the judge said "posed absolutely no threat to him."
In sentencing Carter, Judge Frawley gave him 15-to-life for a second-degree murder conviction and doubled it under the state's "three-strikes" law because the defendant had a prior robbery conviction. Frawley added another 25-to-life to the term under the state's "10-20-Life" sentencing law for Carter's personal use of the firearm.
Burks' family, which sat on the opposite side of the courtroom from Carter's relatives, approved of the sentence. Barry Burks, the victim's brother, asked Frawley "that Richard Carter be sent away to prison for a very long period of time."
"We're glad it's over and that justice was served today," Barry Burks said after the sentencing.
In the courtroom, the brother described the victim as a strong family man who covered the walls of his house with pictures of his two daughters.
"They were Kevin's masterpieces," Barry Burks said.
There was a strong consensus, though, that Richard Carter got an early start on a bad outcome. Kindall read from 14 pages of school incident reports that showed Carter, when he was only 9, was disciplined for punching another kid in the face. Over the years, he stole bikes, fought, brought a pellet gun to school, slapped a boy in the face, disrupted tests, broke a fellow student's pencil box, slapped a girl's face, brought live bullets to school, stole candy and flashed gang signs.
Carter's first arrest came at age 11 for vandalizing a power pole. At age 15, he and a companion robbed another youth at gunpoint of an iPod, according to his probation report. He'd been out of custody "for only six months before he pulled the trigger on Kevin Burks," Kindall said.
The defendant's lawyer blamed Carter's problem on the parents, saying the mother and stepfather both "have extensive criminal histories dating back to before Richard's birth."
Call The Bee's Andy Furillo, (916) 321-1141. Follow him on Twitter @andyfurillo.