IN COLDEST BLOOD

The first thing you notice about James Styers as he walks into the courtroom is how pale and frightened he seems. He wears a dark, multicolored sweater over an open-throated white dress shirt. On his feet he wears white tennis shoes. Styers looks more like a college professor on his way to the library than a murderer ready to hear the verdict.

Styers walks directly in front of Mark Milke, the father of Chris, the four-year-old boy whose life Styers ended when he shot him in the back of the head three times and left the body in the desert.

As Styers moves past Milke, the father says in a voice charged with sarcasm and hate:

"You look more like Mr. Rogers than the murderer you are."
Styers pretends not to hear.
Milke smiles grimly. He continues to stare at the rear of Styers's head from his seat on the front bench of the spectators section. Milke's arms are folded across his chest. His short-sleeved shirt reveals the grotesque tattoo on his right arm.

The tattoo is of a bleeding heart pierced by a dagger. The word "CONAN" is written in the center of the heart.

The fictional barbarian is Milke's favorite character. He even chose it for his son's middle name.

The jury rings its bell and announces it has a verdict at 10:55 a.m. Steyers is brought up at 11 a.m. At 11:10, the television cameras arrive.

The jury enters moments later. Judge Peter D'Angelo, tall and formidable looking, arrives.

"Ladies and gentlemen," Judge D'Angelo asks. "Have you reached a verdict in this matter?"

"We have, your honor."
"Foreman, hand the verdict to the bailiff, please."
The bailiff reads the verdict. There is no other sound in the packed courtroom.

"We the jury, duly impaneled and sworn in the above titled action, find the defendant James Styers guilty of first-degree murder, premeditated."

Styers shakes his head in disbelief. Until this moment, he's been careful not to look toward the jury box.

Now, Styers looks at the jurors. There is a silent plea in his eyes. Just as quickly, he turns away as three more verdicts are read. He is also found guilty of conspiracy, kidnaping and child abuse.

All through it, there is a lack of comprehension on Styers' part. His motions seem constricted, as if the wrong gesture will reveal his guilt. He wipes his left hand over his mouth and puts it down on the table. He wipes his forehead with his right hand.

He looks again at the jury box, perhaps searching for the single juror whose vote could have stayed the verdicts. Not a single juror looks back at him.

Judge D'Angelo speaks slowly and with a deep voice:
"Ladies and gentlemen, on behalf of the participants in this trial, I want to thank you for your services to the community. Now that your verdicts have been read, you are free to discuss them if you want to. Please leave your notebooks with the bailiff to be destroyed."

Judge D'Angelo nods his head. The jurors flutter with pride. Clearly, they have wanted his approval.

"Thank you," Judge D'Angelo says, "you are excused."
The jury files out of the room.
Styers is nudged by a deputy, who leads him from the courtroom.

Brent Whiting of the Arizona Republic moves to the edge of the railing and asks Styers in a resounding voice as he passes:

"Do you have anything to say, Jim?"
Styers doesn't even turn his head.
"Nope," he says.

Reporters surround Noel Levy, the deputy county attorney from the major felony unit who prosecuted the case. Levy is a tall man with a serious but kind face. There seems to be no anger or self-righteousness in him. This is generally a characteristic of lawyers in this line of work.

Less than a month before, Levy obtained a similar verdict in the case of Debra Milke, the slain boy's mother.

Levy wears a doublebreasted blue blazer with shiny buttons, and a pair of faultlessly pressed grey flannel slacks. On the left breast pocket of the jacket there is a large figured crest in red, green and gold. Underneath are the words Duris Non Franco.

"What's your feeling as to what the sentence should be?" a reporter asks.
"Same as the other one," Levy says. "The death penalty. This was the trigger man. It's difficult to say who was the worst.

"James Styers killed the child. She's the one who initiated and perpetuated the idea. She was able to dominate him so that he went along with the diabolical scheme. The killing of the child was depraved. It was cold and premeditated, and then the child was led to his death in a remote desert area.

"Styers took the child first to a drug store and then to his last meal at Peter Piper Pizza and then to the desert. He had to be thinking about killing him all during this time. Then, he shot him three times in the back of the head to make sure.

"I guess cold-blooded is an appropriate phrase."
There is one more question. A reporter asks Levy about the crest on his jacket.

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