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by mary shelton
Tuesday, Feb. 06, 2001 at 7:38 PM
Today, Bernell Butler took the stand and testified how the death of his cousin, Tyisha Miller impacted his marriage even as it galvanized a civil rights movement in Riverside.
Today, Bernell Butler took the stand at his trial, and was questioned by defense attorney Mark Blankenship about how his relationship with his cousin, Tyisha Miller and her death, impacted his ministry and his marriage.
When he got the early morning phone call from Gwendalina Butler, about the shooting of Miller, he initially decided to head to work. "I was driving, then thought I was abandoning my family. So I turned around and drove to where the gas station was, and stood by them," he said. He had been Tyisha's surrogate father since she had asked him to look out for her, several years previously. When she was 15, and living with her aunt, she told him she wanted to learn how to do body work on cars, and he let her start with a bicycle. Even when he was at sea in the Navy, the two corresponded. Butler testified that his girlfriend Ramona Beverly, who became his wife wished that he would spend as much time with her children, as he did with Tyisha. When he took leave from his job as an electrician, she wanted him to go back to work, but he said his ministry was to help out his community and not accumalate things. His dream was to teach the children in his community a trade that could earn them a living.
As he became more involved in marches and rallies as the family spokesperson, Butler testified that his wife was embarassed at his activities and that he was always in the press, but Butler said that he had to march for justice in the case of his cousin. And that the DA should be Tyisha's attorney and file charges against her killers as he would if it happened to his daughter. Butler collaberated testimony given by other ministers earlier in the week, that the Reverend Paul Munford was more interested in making a name for himself than in obtaining justice in the case of Miller, but that he had never choked him nor did he threaten him with a chair.
Prosecutor Brian Sussman objected except during the instances when presiding Judge Edward D. Webster did it for him, the two proving that they are playing on the same team. And the room continued to be crowded with deputy district attorneys who obviously do not have enough work to do, while the political climate is shouting for even more prosecutors to be hired. The prosecutors snicker and laugh among themselves. One said, "I love to see the wheels of justice grind," Others chatted nervously about an incident earlier in the week involving an assault and battery committed by a prosecutor against an activist filming him. The activists have also shown their firm support, filling the chairs on the other side of the aisle. The news writer of the city paper has shown herself to be firmly in the prosecution's pocket.
Direct examination finishes up today, with cross-examination expected to follow.
If convicted of these charges, Butler faces up to 15 years in state prison.
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