Confronting the grief of losing their son once again, Stephen and Carol ‘Sis’ Morrissey stood proudly in front of the court on Friday, Feb. 16, to let everyone know – in their own words – what their son was like and how losing him has forever wounded their family.
After what was a startling verdict to most on Thursday, Feb. 15, in the Ryan Morrissey murder trial, the young man’s mother and father, and the surviving victim, James Lawton, took the stand to address the lone man found guilty of the crime – Jose Baez.
More than anything, Stephen Morrissey pointed out what the memory of his lost son has created, and that is an outpouring of support that has honored his memory with kind words and more than $250,000 in scholarships in only three years.
He called on everyone to be more “Duce-like.”
“We only wish he could see what his memory has created,” he said. “If only we could hear one more witty, wise-ass comment (from him). The legacy that Ryan would have created was cut short on that night in 2014, but the memory of Ryan ‘Duce’ Morrissey will live on forever. People should be more Duce-like; this world would be a better place.”
Morrissey spoke about the character of his son, how he was witty, unassuming and charismatic. From the first time a person met him, they liked him.
“As soon as someone met Ryan, they instantly liked him,” said Stephen Morrissey. “It was because Ryan was a kind, gentle, witty person with a sense of humor that could make anyone laugh. He would brighten our spirits with a joke or even just a look. As soon as Ryan walked in the door, it commanded attention. He had so much charisma and gravitas. There was always something coming out of his mouth to put a smile on our faces.”
Carol Morrissey added only one small but powerful statement.
“I would just like to add our family symbol and the symbol that is also related to Ryan, and it is this,” she said, kissing her fingertips and raising a peace sign up above her head while putting her hand on her grieving husband’s shoulder.
Neither parent addressed Baez directly, as is often common in family statements, but instead concentrated on the character of their son and the massive impact his memory has had on Charlestown since his death.
“Nowadays you cannot drive down the street and not see a green shamrock with a red ‘2’ in the middle of it – whether on a T-shirt, sweatshirt or hat or decal – the Duce logo is a constant reminder on how many lives Ryan touched,” said Stephen Morrissey.
For James Lawton, who was shot and survived, he told the court that he is forever injured and Baez got what he deserved.
“Ryan was an amazing person and lived his life to the fullest,” Lawton said. “He had so much ahead of him and you took that from him. He has friends and family that loved him so much and miss him every day. I don’t have words for what happened that night in November, but I do not only have the mental pain, but also the physical pain as a constant reminder of what I went though and have to live with every day. You deserve everything that is given to you today.”
That was followed up by the sentencing, where Judge Janet Sanders – with a troubled look on her face in a case that has moved the hearts of the entire Town and even many in the Boston courthouse – called the crime an “execution,” and sentenced Baez to the maximum for his role in the murder.
“That Ryan and James Lawton were not the intended targets should have nothing to do with this,” she said. “This was an execution style shooting. It truly was.”
While it’s acknowledged that he wasn’t at the scene of the shooting, but in acting as the getaway driver and his role in planning the attack, Baez was convicted in a joint venture murder. The actual men who were charged with allegedly pulling the trigger were not convicted.
Baez’s sentence included a mandatory life in prison without parole sentence, and Judge Sanders also gave him the maximum time on two other charges, armed assault with intent to murder and aggravated assault. He will serve his time in Cedar Junction state prison.
Prosecutor John Verner also addressed the court, and moved by the emotion of the case, said the two victims were not in the wrong place at the wrong time.
“One thing that has been said many times in the aftermath of the shooting is Ryan and James were in the wrong place at the wrong time,” he said. “They actually where exactly were they were supposed to be. They were with their friends at the corner store.”
Baez was stoic and serious during his sentencing, waving to his small daughter when he entered the court and often looking over at the large contingent of his family that were there.
“My client has asked me to say to the court that he believes everything said today by the Morrissey family and James Lawton was appropriate,” said Baez’s attorney John Amabile. “My client has had very strong family support through the last few weeks. They are here. He has three children. They have been everything anyone could ask for in a family through this trial.”
DA Dan Conley said he and his staff came to know Ryan Morrissey through the dignity and grace of the family.
“Homicide prosecutors come to know the victims in their cases through surviving family and friends,” Conley said. “We came to know Ryan through these eyes and voices. We came to know him through his parents’ remarkable grace and dignity, even in their deepest grief. They show us what a remarkable young man he was, and what we all lost when he was taken.”
Following the sentencing, members of the Baez family were upset, screaming expletives in the hallway and at members of the media outside the courthouse.
“That’s not (expletive deleted) justice,” yelled one family member. “Are you happy? Free Julio!”
And like that, after several years of anguish, the legal matter was over.