The Division II Court of Appeals has affirmed the convictions of a Tacoma man found guilty of shooting a teenager to death near a downtown all-ages club three years ago.
The panel rejected arguments from Verrick V. Yarbrough that he did not receive a fair trial. Yarbrough appealed his first-degree murder conviction in the death of Rhaczio Simms in July 2006 (click here to read the full opinion).
Yarbrough contended that Superior Court Judge Vicki Hogan improperly allowed evidence about his reported gang ties into the trial, among other things.
Prosecutors argued that Yarbrough took part in Sims’ murder because the victim associated with a rival gang.
A jury agreed and convicted Yarbrough, who subsequently was sentenced to 60 years in prison.
TNT staff writer Sean Robinson’s story on the sentencing follows:
60 years for nightclub killing
Murderer still defiant as court hands down sentence of ‘reckoning’. A Pierce County judge issues a 60-year prison sentence for Verrick Vere Yarbrough, the triggerman in a fatal Tacoma gang shooting outside a youth club.
By Sean Robinson
Saturday,June 2, 2007
Edition: SOUTH SOUND, Section: South Sound & Local, Page B01
The math was inexorable. Verrick Vere Yarbrough, 18, found guilty of murder and assault, listened and fidgeted Friday in Pierce County Superior Court as the tally of months added up, each one another piece of a life thrown away.
For the fatal shooting of Rhaczio “RhaRha” Simms, Yarbrough’s rival in a gangster feud: 361 months.
For the assault that sent a stray bullet into Tiffany Walker, a teenage bystander who stepped out of a downtown Tacoma youth nightclub at the wrong moment and managed to survive: 123 months.
For the gun Yarbrough carried that fired both shots: 60 months, times two.
For aggravating factors – being in a gang and harming a bystander: 120 months.
Total months: 724.
Lawyers and judges count in months. That’s how sentences are calculated. Years are the more common measure elsewhere. Yarbrough was looking at 60 of them.
Deputy prosecutor Gerry Costello said the time was justified. Yarbrough started a gunfight on a crowded public street, Costello said. That was outrageous. He had wounded two people and taken a life.
“The defendant’s crime will have a lifelong impact,” Costello said. “The aftermath of what he did, what he started on Pacific Avenue, is horrible. It’s time for a reckoning.”
Yarbrough’s attorney, Robert Meyers, argued for less time – something closer to 480 months. That would still be 40 years, he said. His client would be in his 50s, no longer young, no longer the teenage gangster who sparked a gunfight last July 8 outside Club Friday.
“It’s virtually a life sentence,” Meyers said of the sentence recommended by Costello.
Meyers said prosecutors should have asked for a life sentence to begin with, if that’s what they wanted.
When it was Yarbrough’s turn to speak he did himself no favors.
“Personally, I feel that this is unjust,” he said. “It’s b.s. to convict somebody when you know I didn’t do it.”
Yarbrough said he felt remorse for his own family – especially his mother. He felt remorse for Simms’ family, too – but only because they wouldn’t see the real killer imprisoned. Yarbrough didn’t say who that was.
“Either way this goes, either side it goes, you know what I’m saying, there’s no justice for me,” he said. “As far as my attorney, no comment. As far as the judge, no comment.”
Superior Court Judge Vicki Hogan looked at Yarbrough for a moment.
“I’m at a loss for words, Mr. Yarbrough,” she said.
She pronounced her sentence, matching Costello’s recommendation at every step – the full 60 years.
A ream of orders related to the sentencing flew from lawyer to lawyer and finally to Yarbrough, who looked down and muttered to Meyers.
“No – no, I’m not signing that,” he said.
Yarbrough had the right to appeal the verdict and the sentence, Hogan said.
He could take the copies of the papers explaining those rights, though he had refused to sign them.
Yarbrough rolled the yellow copies into a tube, holding it in his manacled hands.
“So me not signing it doesn’t have nothing to do with my appeal, does it?” he asked.
“No,” Hogan said.