The Valley of the Shadow of Death

I love inside baseball, so I picked up The Valley of the Shadow of Death by Kermit Alexander to hear about how the LA DA’s office handled this high profile case in the late 1980s. I didn’t know who Kermit Alexander was or what happened to his family.  Here’s a video of the story:


Alexander’s family was killed by members of the Rollin’ 60s set of the Crips.  The killers apparently intended to murder a woman who was suing a local business owner.  The woman lived two houses away from Alexander’s family.  Tragically, the near-illiterate killers misread the address and four people paid the price.  The case was unsolved for several weeks, but was broken open when another person in the community was arrested on another minor charge but began talking while in custody.  Like Jarvious Cotton, this anecdote shows that enforcing less important laws can lead to arrests for violating the most serious kind of laws.

The book succeeds on two grounds. First, the inside baseball is there: tons of names that still bounce around the halls of courtrooms and law offices. It’s a weird pleasure to read about someone you work with. A hardback book confers a certain officiality, a kind of credibility that’s hard to describe, especially when that person may be standing next to you in the men’s room tomorrow. Second, the book is full of interesting esoterica about Los Angeles gangs and crime. The two professors who co-wrote the book used Alexander’s story as a hook to hang all sorts of tidbits and trivia that will delight and inform you. You may not expect to learn the history of the Crips, but you will, and you’ll be glad you did. When I put the book down, my expectations were exceeded, and I found myself wondering what happened to the characters, especially the killers, since publication.


Here’s Alexander advocating for the death penalty.  He supported Proposition 66, along with Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey.  This Proposition, which was approved by the voters, speeds up the implementation of the death penalty.  The shooter, Tiequon Cox, was sentenced to death but has not been executed.  Alexander says, “justice is not easy, and it is certainly not gentle.”

It’s an interesting contradiction that he also talks about forgiveness.  There has been no apology from the killers.  But Alexander says he has forgiven him.

The gunman, Tiequon Cox, later stabbed Tookie Williams, another Crip, before Williams was executed.  Williams was one of the original founders of the Crips.  He ordered Cox to kill Darren Williams, who was also involved in the Alexander shooting.  Cox refused to do it, and stabbed Williams instead.  At the time, there were 20-30 Crips on death row in San Quentin.

Some think that Cox should not be executed.  Here’s an essay arguing Cox “needs more than jail they need mental help and should be sent to an asylum or some type of counseling that can try and help them. “

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