Far too many young black men die violently and are quickly forgotten, James and Shirley Thomas say. They are determined that last month's shooting death of their 20-year-old son, Jarami, will not be among those statistics.
The couple will use proceeds from a benefit concert today to hire a lawyer to fight any plea bargain that does not include significant prison time for the person convicted of his slaying, James Thomas said.
"We want to send a message to the community that this is serious, and we want to make sure that the sentence is a serious one," he said.
Some murderers are released into society after serving no more prison time than a burglar, the parents said.
"I think the person convicted of killing Jarami should have to forfeit his life," James Thomas said.
However, there is no legal avenue for a private attorney to assist in a criminal prosecution, said Tamla Ray, the assistant district attorney assigned to the case. Clevin Earl Brown, 18, of Arlington faces murder and weapons charges in the slaying. He is in the Tarrant County Jail, with bail set at $150,000.
If Brown is convicted of murder, his sentence would range from five years to life in prison, Ray said. Not enough time has passed since Brown's March 14 arrest to determine what the appropriate punishment would be, she said. A plea bargain has not been discussed.
"We always make decisions based on issues of justice," she said. "We would not make a plea agreement the family was not comfortable with."
Chris Flood, a former Harris County prosecutor and defense attorney, said he does not fault the family for seeking an advocate to make sure that the state recognizes the effects of the guilty party's actions. But Flood added that it is the prosecutor's job to weigh the wishes of the victim's family against a duty to seek justice.
"A lot of times, the victims don't want justice. They just want revenge," Flood said.
On March 14, Jarami Thomas, an up-and-coming rapper, drove to a parking lot in the 3200 block of West Green Oaks Boulevard in Arlington to end a dispute over a $40 debt. Three men pulled him from his car, and one shot him in his left arm and chest, police reported. Thomas reportedly bled to death in his girlfriend's arms.
TV and radio personality Steve Harvey, who employs James Thomas as his project manager, said that he has talked about Jarami Thomas' death on the radio and that his listeners have expressed their anger. They see wide swings of unfairness in a legal system that leads to wrongful convictions yet cannot keep predatory killers out of mainstream society, Harvey said.
"There is a general consensus that says that black lives don't have the same value as other lives in the court system," Harvey said. "Then there are others who say that black lives are not valued by young black men."
Harvey said it makes him ill to hear young men tell him that they do not know how to dissuade youths from a criminal lifestyle. These same young men seem to know exactly what to say to get youths involved with gangs, he said.
"I just want real men to step up and stop being cowards," Harvey said. "We need to create young men who won't pick up a gun and point it at other young men."
Harvey has a mentoring program that each year brings young men raised by single mothers to his property in Little Elm to celebrate Father's Day. But he said there would be no need for his mentoring program if real men would just step up.
"At the core of this problem is too many fathers in our community who have walked away from being fathers," Harvey said. "These boys have the idea that being a gangster makes them a man. Real men are not gangsters. Real men go to work, take care of and protect their children, and have dreams for their families."
The Thomases seek to follow Harvey's example and said that after attorneys fees are paid, any leftover proceeds from the concert will be used to set up a foundation in their son's name. The foundation will match youths with skilled entrepreneurs who can mentor them.
Mitch Mitchell, 817-390-7752