About 30 people dressed in blue stood out in a crowded district courtroom on Valentine’s Day.
The family and friends of beloved Lafayette boxer Brandon Broussard wore his favorite color to make a statement on the day the men indicted in his Oct. 13 murder were scheduled to appear in court.
“We’re here to show that we’re not going away, and we’re never going to stop,” said Broussard’s uncle, Chris Bernard. “A lot of times when something like this happens, people let it go. The families don’t come to court and keep pushing for justice.”
Justice to them means a life sentence for brothers Shavis Toby and Carlos Toby.
Both men were indicted on second-degree murder and criminal conspiracy to commit second-degree murder of the 28-year-old boxer and father of three. They entered not guilty pleas through their lawyers in December and are being held in the Lafayette jail without bond.
“I feel like they took his life, so they shouldn’t have a life,” said Broussard’s mother, Barbara Broussard. “I’ve been able to take the strength and determination Brandon had with me when I come to these court proceedings to make sure that his death wasn’t in vain.”
The journey to justice can be painstakingly slow for loved ones left behind after a violent crime.
"The court processes and proceedings cause stress and emotional grief for families," said Tamara Jackson, executive director of Silence Is Violence, a New Orleans advocacy group for families of homicide victims. "My dad was murdered in 2000, and we went to court for two years before the case was actually tried. I understand firsthand the back and forth. And I only had two years of it."
Even pretrial court appearances like Thursday's can drag on. A name is called. A person disappears. Again. And again. And again.
Shavis Toby, wearing an orange-and-white jumpsuit, sat front and center with a group of inmates who were also scheduled to appear in court Thursday. His brother, Carlos, was scheduled to appear in another courtroom.
“I don’t want to see a grin on his face,” Tara Fogleman, Broussard’s friend, said under her breath. “That better be a nervous grin. They better be scared. They messed with the wrong family.”
Broussard’s friends, family and fellow athletes left the courtroom after waiting for more than two hours. They learned later that pretrial appearances for the Toby brothers had been pushed back to May 16.
But their time wasn't wasted. They know the importance to showing up to every court appearance, no matter how small, so the case isn't forgotten.
"It's extremely important for them to continue to engage in the criminal justice system," Jackson said of the Broussard family. "The more the judge and prosecutors and public defenders see the family's involvement, the more they know that people care, that the person who was killed was loved. They know that people are waiting for, are pursuing justice."
Broussard's boxing coach and others in the Lafayette boxing community have also shown their support at court appearances because they know Broussard would have done the same for them.
“I had him from his amateur to professional career, from a kid to a young man,” said Shelton LeBlanc, who coached Broussard for about 13 years. “He worked out hard and motivated the younger ones. He really motivated and pushed them, and the kids looked up to him.”
Kaylyn Alfred, 27, was one of those kids. He started boxing with Broussard at the age of 14.
“If I could thank Brandon today, I’d thank him for showing me how to strive for greatness,” Alfred said. “How to be in the ring, outside of the ring, with my family and my community. How to be someone that the younger generation can look up to. How there’s more than one way to be successful — through boxing, punching in for the 9-to-5, being a father.”