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UPDATED: Jury urges 33-year term for second man guilty of murdering 9-year-old Markiya Dickson
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UPDATED: Jury urges 33-year term for second man guilty of murdering 9-year-old Markiya Dickson

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Parents of Markiya Dickson talk about the sentencing of their daughter's killers

A Richmond jury has found a second defendant guilty of second-degree murder in a shooting that killed 9-year-old Markiya Dickson and injured an 11-year-old boy at a South Richmond park over Memorial Day weekend last year.

On Thursday, the jurors recommended a sentence of 33 years for Jermaine Rokee Davis after finding him guilty of murder, malicious wounding and two related firearm charges.

“I’ll take the justice,” said Mark Whitfield, Markiya’s father, after the jury’s verdict and sentence was pronounced. “Any justice right now is justice because it’s been dragging us a long time, and we’re not even done yet.”

“We’re still going to be hurting, regardless,” said Ciara Dickson, wearing a shirt with a silhouette of her daughter’s face and nine birds flying, representing the girl’s age. “She’s still not here.”

“That’s for life,” Whitfield said.

Davis, of the 4500 block of Millenbeck Road, is the second of three men charged in the case to go to trial.

In March, his brother, Quinshawn Betts, was convicted by a judge of the same four crimes. Betts was sentenced to 22 years in prison with an additional 46 years suspended — Whitfield and Dickson thought the sentence was too light. A third man, Jesus Turner, is scheduled for trial in January.

The two children, along with their families and hundreds of others in the park that day, were playing at an annual community Memorial Day cookout.

Markiya was near the cookout’s pony rides when gunfire erupted about 7:20 p.m. on May 26, 2019, at the park’s basketball courts. Jaquez Evans-Moses, 11, had been playing tag.

It’s unclear who fired the shot that struck Markiya in the back, lung and heart, and hit Jaquez in the arm and chest.

But prosecutors said the three men charged were working together — they had arrived at the park to confront another man — and had fired in the direction of the children. A fourth shooter, a witness for the prosecution, fired at the other three, according to prosecutors.

At least 23 shots were fired. Only one cartridge case recovered from the park was shot by the man who cooperated with prosecutors.

Davis’ attorney, Leonard McCall, attempted to cast doubt on his client’s involvement. Davis testified that he was trying to flee when the shots rang out. At the time, he was using a crutch and had a boot on his right foot after being shot in an earlier, unrelated incident.

Davis apologized for what happened to Markiya and Jaquez but maintained his innocence, even after being convicted, turning the blame on his brother and others with him.

The jury, comprised of nine women and three men, deliberated for three hours Wednesday night. On Thursday, they returned and deliberated for four more hours before reaching a verdict.

They then deliberated for 2½ hours on Davis’ sentence after hearing from Markiya’s parents about how her death has affected their family.

Dickson said their 12-year-old daughter was beside Markiya when she was shot and became covered in blood. The girl recently had a nightmare that someone would kill her.

“We always told them, we’d protect them,” Dickson told the jury. “I couldn’t protect her from this.”

Dickson said it’s sometimes hard to look at her son, who she said looks just like Markiya. He’s so young, he doesn’t have memories of his slain sister. For their older daughter, “those memories of Markiya end at 9 years old.”

Whitfield said he can’t bring himself to watch footage of the daughter he lost.

“The sound of her voice just kills me ... I’m numb. I have no more tears. I cry on the inside,” he said.

Whitfield made an impassioned plea of jurors, asking them to “set the standard” in Richmond.

“Y’all got to set the standards out here on the streets,” he said, “because people are looking at this to see if they can kill, do some time and get back out on these streets.”

Prosecutor Caitlin Kelly echoed his sentiments, asking the jury to sentence Davis, who faced 18 to 68 years in prison, in accordance with the crime.

“This isn’t just another murder,” Kelly said. “The fact that I’m saying ‘just another’ shows we’re not doing enough to say that this level of indiscriminate violence is unwelcome in Richmond.”

Whitfield said the family hopes to keep Markiya’s memory alive, not just for her siblings, but also so that other children and the city can learn from her story. He also wants to lobby lawmakers for changes to sentencing laws and help stem violent crime.

The family has created the MSD Foundation “to bring hope” to communities where there is little.

“She had a name: Markiya Simone Dickson,” Whitfield said.

Her name has been invoked by Gov. Ralph Northam and Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney in recent gun reform efforts.

A formal sentencing hearing was set for February, when Circuit Judge Phillip L. Hairston is expected to impose the jury’s recommended sentence. It is rare that a judge would deviate from a jury’s recommendation.

arockett@timesdispatch.com

(804) 649-6527

Twitter: @AliRockettRTD

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