A sentencing hearing in a murder case is typically a drawn-out affair — and for good reason.

It’s the last chance for family to give their kin’s killer a snapshot of the victim, of the void in their lives. It’s a chance for judges to lecture and prosecutors to posture. And on rare occasions, it’s a chance for a defendant to express sorrow, even remorse.

None of that happened Monday, as the gang member prosecutors describe as a “menace” was sentenced to life in prison for firing 10 shots at a rival gang member in the middle of the day — and instead killing Barbara Williams, 55, a grandma who had been chatting on a stoop.

Asked if he wanted to speak, defendant Michael Goynes, 24, said “no.” Assistant Public Defender Matt Miller said there wasn’t much to say, noting that the judge had no wiggle room other than to impose a life sentence for first-degree murder. Prosecutor Michael Jensen said Williams’ family members were unable to attend and directed court officials to a letter they sent.

And Douglas County District Judge Peter Bataillon — never bashful — chose to simply impose the life sentence, then tack on 65 to 75 years for Goynes’ gun convictions.

Folks weren’t as quiet outside of court.

Michael Williams, who said he is Goynes’ father, decried the outcome. Goynes was convicted after two people — Goynes’ adult cousin and her boyfriend — said they saw Goynes, a member of the 29th Street Bloods, hop out of a car and begin firing at two rival Crips in April 2016.

Caught in the barrage of bullets: Barbara Williams, who had spent that warm spring Monday afternoon drinking and chatting with neighbors outside the Lindenwood Court Apartments, 48th and Boyd Streets. Williams, a gentle soul who had 17 grandchildren, took her last breath in the arms of Goynes’ cousin.

At Goynes’ trial, the cousin and her boyfriend testified that they had no doubt that Goynes was the gunman. But Goynes’ father seized on this fact: The cousin had picked the wrong man out of a photo lineup when police initially questioned her.

Facing a TV news camera Monday, Michael Williams grabbed the microphone from a reporter to say his piece.

“Today is unacceptable,” Michael Williams said. “And every police out there — I don’t give a (expletive) about none of y’all. All y’all is crooked. The justice system is crooked. The judge is crooked. The lawyer is crooked.

“The only thing (the police) do is sit around and eat them damn doughnuts and put innocent men in jail.”

A reporter asked Williams to spell his name. He did, then said: “And pigs is spelled P-I-G.”

Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine said police and prosecutors did a great job of keeping the case together — and the witnesses on board. Officials paid $3,000 to relocate the couple out of state.

Goynes — known to police as a “shooter,” Kleine said — had been released from jail six weeks before Barbara Williams’ death after prosecutors dropped a first-degree murder charge against him in the May 2015 shooting death of rival gang member Lamont Secret. Witnesses initially said Goynes was the man who killed Secret at the 72nd and Military Quik Trip. Those witnesses then changed their accounts.

In the Williams case, Goynes’ cousin Larry Goynes and other family members had testified that Michael was with them at a picnic a few miles away from the shooting scene. (Larry Goynes has since been charged with first-degree murder in the Jan. 7 death of a young father, Army Sgt. Kyle LeFlore, outside the Reign Lounge, 8919 N. 30th St.)

Jurors rejected that alibi. They deliberated just four hours before convicting Michael Goynes.

Kleine praised the couple’s fortitude.

“That’s the biggest part of this whole process,” Kleine said. “We have to have witnesses who have the courage to come forward, to take the witness stand and to confront the people who do these hideous acts. And these two did just that.”

todd.cooper@owh.com, 402-444-1275

Sign up for The World-Herald's afternoon updates

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Reporter - Courts

Todd Cooper covers courts, lawyers, trials, legal issues, the justice system and government wrongdoing for The World-Herald. Follow him on Twitter @CooperonCourts. Phone: 402-444-1275.

Commenting is limited to Omaha World-Herald subscribers. To sign up, click here.

If you're already a subscriber and need to activate your access or log in, click here.

Recommended for you

Load comments

You must be a full digital subscriber to read this article You must be a digital subscriber to view this article.