Judge de Bibb lectures shooter on sad state of violence in Macon
Renowned locally for his often hard-hitting lectures to those convicted of violent crimes, Bibb County Superior Court Judge Howard Z. Simms delivered another lick the other day.
During a hearing Thursday where a young man charged with murder was given the option to plead guilty instead of intentional homicide, Simms spoke of the “stupidity” and unimaginable consequences of those who resort to gun violence.
Macon has in recent years, like other cities across the country, been plagued by rising homicides.
The rise here has been particularly marked.
In the two years since the coronavirus shutdown in mid-March 2020, there have been 110 homicides in Bibb County.
In the previous four years – all of 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019 combined – there were 117 such deaths.
Additionally, in the previous half-decade, the years 2011-2015 combined, there were 97 murders.
Although the judge didn’t mention the statistics so much, he did talk about the emotional toll, grief and hardship for the families of victims and offenders. And as he often does, he expressed his dismay and bewilderment at why people too often resort to violence.
As the young defendant stood before him on Thursday, Simms listened as a prosecutor described the facts of the case.
In August 2018, Dawan J. Daniels Jr. was 18 when he and his best friend, Da’Kwaun Faulks, also 18, drove to a neighborhood on Burton Avenue.
Daniels was going to go up against an old close friend of theirs named Zontravion Hernandez as part of an ongoing feud Daniels had with him, possibly a beef over stolen property.
Gunfire broke out between Daniels and Hernandez.
One of their bullets hit Faulks in the back. He died later.
Last summer, Hernandez pleaded guilty to intentional homicide and was sentenced to 20 years in prison.
On Tuesday, a trial began in the Daniels case.
Now 21, he has been charged with murder. But Thursday entered his plea.
Prosecutors said they would drop the murder charge – which could have carried a mandatory 30-year sentence – in exchange for Daniels’ guilty pleas to intentional homicide and a charge of possession of firearms.
Daniels took the deal, and when it was his turn to speak, he apologized to Faulks’ family. He assured them that it was not his bullet that took the life of his best friend, their beloved.
Then Judge Simms had his say.
Simms berates the accused
Below is a transcript – slightly condensed and lightly edited for clarity – of what Simms told Daniels before handing down a 25-year prison sentence:
Let me tell you something, Mr. Daniels. You may not have pulled the trigger on the gun that fired the bullet at this young man.
But you’re just as responsible for his death as Mr. Henandez, son.
And here’s why. … I am in this room every week to deal with a situation like this. … The Why that’s what I don’t understand.
We are now settling our grievances with guns.
There are no more fights in the schoolyard like when I was 18.
You are all children. You were children when it happened. If you have some kind of beef, we settle it with guns.
That’s why we set homicide records in this community every year. This is how we settle our differences now.
By God, if we disagree with your opinion, if we disagree with you, if we think you have wronged us, you pay for this disagreement with your the life.
And while you may not have pulled the trigger on that particular gun, you are just as responsible for the death of your friend and the suffering of these (family members) as if you had. made. Because if you hadn’t gone to that fight with (Faulks), with a gun, he would still be here.
This is why the Criminal Murder Act exists. … (As a judge) you are not hardened to that. I see these faces in my sleep!
And that’s because this whole generation of people is too immature to settle their differences like reasonable, rational people. We are not going to fight. We’re not going to talk about it. We’re not going to argue. We’re going to shoot it!
Blood runs down just about every street in this city, and it’s because of some very bad decisions you made, Mr. Hernandez made, and so many other people made.
And so we find ourselves in this room, with two broken families. … I do not understand. … And the day they put me in the ground, I will not understand it.
And just so you know, it bothers me a lot.
Sometimes I feel like I’ve sent half a generation of kids to penitentiary just for that kind of stupidity.
And that’s what it is.
You can call it pride, you can call it saving face, you call it standing up to… it’s stupidity. In the end, it’s stupidity.
People don’t think. They act. And they act with a gun.
When you pull out a gun, someone’s gonna die – most of the time here.
This time it was your friend. … Whatever argument you had with Mr. Hernandez, it wasn’t worth what’s going to happen in this room.
I promise you.