If there were a contest for worst mother, Rosie Murphy would qualify as a finalist.
Unless all of her family members lied during their testimony in Alameda County Superior Court last week, the 63-year-old woman put her son David Mills out onto the street to sell drugs when he was 12 years old. Throughout his childhood, she cursed at him and treated him like dirt.
Now that Mills, 38, is facing the death penalty for killing three people, Murphy says she bears "zero" responsibility for the fact that her son turned into a killer.
No acceptance at all of the fact that her atrocious parenting might possibly have played some role in his failure to develop into a productive member of society.
Mills' mother had to be arrested and forced to testify during the death-penalty phase of his sentencing. She said that she never made her children sell drugs. That she was not a drug addict -- though medical records show that she got methadone treatment for a "severe" opiate addiction.
The defense is trying to convince the jury that Mills' horrific childhood is a "mitigating factor" and that his life should be spared.
"Mr. Mills was born into a life without a moral compass," defense attorney William Linehan said. "It was inevitable that David Mills took the wrong path."
I agree with the first part of that statement. Not the second. There are many people who were raised in challenging circumstances who don't go out and kill other
Mills' terrible childhood in no way excuses what he did.
I do think, however, he is a poster child for the deeply rooted dysfunction that is tearing apart many poor urban communities -- a legacy of the heroin and crack epidemics that continue to fuel so much of the violent crime in Oakland.
According to court testimony, Mills was shuffled between his mother and father, a self-described alcoholic schizophrenic. He was left to raise himself on the drug-infested streets of East Oakland.
Mills is the extreme.
He lured his victims to his father's house on the pretense of returning a gun that he had taken from one woman's former boyfriend. Then, when they arrived, shot them to death while they sat in the car. James Martin, 28, Dale Griffin, 36, and Rebecca Martinez, 22, were fatally wounded. Martinez's sister Elizabeth, 26, was also shot. She survived, it's believed, because the pit bull sitting on her lap absorbed some of the bullets. It died and another dog was wounded.
There are many angry, callous individuals on the streets of Oakland who were born to drug-addicted parents who abused them, neglected them, or outright abandoned them. Look at who is doing much of the robbing, shooting and killing, and you will find them.
People who are so disconnected from their own humanity that they have no value for anyone else's life. Which is why it makes it so easy for them to shoot someone else without thinking twice about it.
"It's more the norm than it's not the norm," says Doug Butler, director of the Men of Valor Academy in East Oakland.
The academy, founded by Acts Full Gospel Bishop Bob Jackson, helps formerly incarcerated men reintegrate into society through intensive mentoring, educational classes, job training and job placement. Many of the Men of Valor grads had parents on drugs, followed the same path and ended up in prison. But on Aug. 9, 12 students will graduate, having made the commitment to change their lives.
Butler is adamant that every one bears responsibility for their choices, regardless of how rotten their parents were.
I remember watching journalist Chauncey Bailey's killer, Devaugndre Broussard, testifying in court. He was completely devoid of emotion as he talked about how he shot the journalist in downtown Oakland. He might as well have been talking about taking out the trash. He actually laughed on the stand when he talked about shooting and killing another man.
Broussard had grown up in Richmond to a mother who had cycled in and out of prison on drug charges.
Little boys are not born monsters.
As a community, the question is, how do we reach children before they become the David Mills and Devaugndre Broussards of tomorrow.