Tyler gang member Dennis Bendy faces up to life in prison following his conviction Tuesday of murdering a 20-year-old mother last year in a Tyler park.
Bendy was convicted of fatally shooting Briana Young during gang violence in P.T. Cole Park on July 30, 2013.
After a week of testimony, the jury delivered the verdict after deliberating for less than two hours.
Smith County District Attorney Matt Bingham said the verdict was justice for the victim’s family, particularly her young son, whom she had in her arms when she was gunned down.
“I’m very excited for this verdict,” Bingham said. “It really does send a message to gangs that commit murder and turn our parks … into battle grounds, and this is a message that the Police Department and the jury has sent that we are not going to tolerate it.”
Co-defendant and fellow gang member Rakheem “Boobie” Goldstein testified that Bendy drove up on one side of the park and began firing, and fellow gang member Elisha Williams crossed the park firing and eventually hit Ms. Young.
During the crossfire, Ms. Young ran to her young son to protect him from the flying bullets. She was struck in the chest and died holding her son in her arms.
Bingham told jurors during closing arguments that Bendy might not have fired the fatal shot, but he fired eight rounds into a crowded park with the intent to cause bodily harm. His actions, Bingham said, proved he should be convicted of murder.
Defense attorney Rex Thompson told jurors in closing arguments they could not find Bendy guilty of murder because there was no proof, other than the testimony of co-defendants in the case, which placed Bendy at the park.
Thompson also said Goldstein should not be held as a truthful witness, because he had admitted to lying repeatedly during the case to help himself.
“Rakheem is in it for Rakheem,” he said.
Thompson said several of the state’s witnesses were not reliable witnesses because their stories didn’t add up, or in some cases, they were co-defendants looking to make a deal to help themselves.
Thompson said Stephen “Sticky” Widemon was given a promise he would not be prosecuted for murder for providing the guns in the case if he testified.
Thompson said Goldstein’s testimony was so unreliable that “if he told me it was daytime, I’d walk outside to check.” As for another witness, Thompson said, “he was so high that night, he was looking down on the moon.”
But Bingham said the evidence did add up, and the testimony supported the facts in the case that Bendy, Goldstein and Williams went to the park and opened fire, and Ms. Young was.
Bendy showed no emotion when the verdict was read or when State District Judge Jack Skeen Jr., set the sentencing date for 9 a.m. Aug. 28.
Bendy could receive a sentence up to life in prison and chose to have the judge assess his punishment.
He was remained jailed on a $2 million bond until his sentencing.
Thompson declined to elaborate about the trial’s outcome and only said, “We are disappointed with the jury’s verdict but respect their decision.”
Bingham said he plans to go forward with murder cases against Goldstein and Williams.