“Life” Sentence

That Fateful Day

Joshua Puckett had adapted to his new IGM (Insane Gangster Mafia) family and lifestyle with ease.  He was an accepted member of a family who were loyal to one another; he would never be left alone in the world again.

When he awoke that morning, Joshua Puckett had no idea the events of November 9, 1995 would change the course of his life forever. At the time, the name Angel Lawrence and the mandatory punishment for Aider and Abettors were irrelevant to him. What was important was hanging out with his friends and his long-awaited date with Natalie Golem.


Joshua spent most of the day in Garden City with Roger Cameron and his friends (Gangster Disciples (GDs)) listening to music, drinking, smoking marijuana and trash talking. They exchanged ideas about what to do for the rest of the day. Roger referenced wanting to test out his new gun and rejected Joshua’s proposal of going to a club, as he had to be at work early the next morning. They were solid on firing Roger’s new gun at some point that day; at what was, however, is not clear (per trial transcripts).


As evening approached, Joshua put Roger’s gun in the trunk of his red convertible and the two headed to southwest Detroit. Once again, the main activities were listening to music, drinking, smoking marijuana and trash talking. Hillary Rogers (IGM), Michael Cluesman (IGM), Brandon Gorski (IGM), Natalie and Joshua decided they would catch a movie at the theater in Canton later in the evening. Until then they would just continue to hang out at the southwest Detroit duplex and wait to see if Roger and the GDs were going to follow through with firing Roger’s new gun.


Guys from the “burbs”


Roger and the GDs had just performed a violation (“V”) on Hillary for losing one of their guns when the conversation among the GDs changed to a “darker” topic. Roger was relentless in his desire to test out his new gun that night. Suggestions as to where he should test it were being thrown out among the group. Early proposals were for Roger to fire the weapon into a garage located in an ally up the street.  After all, he only had ten rounds. Joshua lobbied for firing the weapon at a building located in known Cash Flow Posse territory. The Cash Flows were a rival gang who had recently caused trouble for the IGMs and their “hood” was close in proximity. The abandoned building displayed Cash Flow Posse tagging (graffiti) and to shoot at another gang’s tagging was the ultimate in disrespect. At her request, Joshua agreed to allow Hillary to go with the GDs and lead them to the building.

Joshua had been running back and forth between his date and the conversation. It didn’t appear to him that the GDs were putting together a “plan of action.” In fact, Joshua didn’t believe the GDs would go through with it, even after Brandon ordered him to pick up another gun for the GDs to take with them. Brandon explained to Joshua that where the GDs were going was more dangerous than they realized and if they were seen by Cash Flow Posse members, the Cash Flows wouldn’t hesitate to fire on them without instigation.

“Josh was ordered by Brandon Gorski to go to a friend’s house and pick up a shotgun, which Josh did.” – Michael Cluesman, Affidavit (4.22.10).

Joshua followed the order, went to the other location to acquire the other gun, returned to the duplex and handed the second gun to one of the GDs, who were outside preparing to leave. When Joshua attempted to return to Brandon and Natalie he was intercepted by Adrian Alverez and Michael.  Adrian and Michael wanted to follow the GDs but needed a ride. Joshua was growing more annoyed with “business” constantly interrupting his date with Natalie and threw the keys to his car at the two men. When he realized he had just given the keys to his most prized possession to his intoxicated friends … he quickly collected the keys. Adrian and Michael were persistent; they were just as skeptical as Joshua that these “guys from the burbs” would actually do anything.


Shots Fired!


Daniel Broyles (GD) drove Roger, Hillary and the other GDs in his car. They had taken off approximately 5 minutes before Joshua gave in to Adrian and Michael. When Joshua got to the location of the abandoned building the three men were surprised when they didn’t see Broyles’ car anywhere. They drove around the area for a few minutes looking for the GDs until they heard gun shots. Instinctively, the gang members ducked and Joshua stepped on the gas.  When Joshua arrived at the main street (Central) the car containing the GDs and Hillary pulled up behind him but did not follow him back to the duplex.

“I, in fact, was the actual shooter…” “During the shooting, I actually shot at a basement window, [where] we know no one was present.  I was afraid that I might hurt someone, and was very reluctant to shoot …” – Roger Cameron, Affidavit (11.23.10).

Adrian, Michael and Joshua went back into the house and reported to Brandon. Shortly after they arrived there was a knock at the door. When Joshua opened the door Hillary handed him the guns. Joshua passed the guns to someone else in the house and asked Hillary what had happened. Hillary informed him that Roger was a “pussy.” Not only did she have to navigate the GDs to the location, they had to circle the block several times before Roger worked up the nerve to actually fire at the building; even then Hillary had to coax him.  She said they dropped her off, weapons in hand, one street over from the duplex and headed back to Garden City. Brandon and Joshua asked Hillary what Roger shot at and if he had hit anything. Hillary said Roger didn’t hit anything but the building.  [Trial transcripts substantiate testimony from the GDs revealing that Hillary led the group to an occupied building near the abandoned building and coaxed Roger to shoot by repeating the word “fire.”]


Arrest and Opportunity


Joshua, Natalie and some of the others left the duplex for a more conventional ending to the evening. The group made it as far as Steve’s Coney Island when they were arrested by the Detroit Police – Gang Squad.  The police didn’t provide details when they took the group to the precinct. Natalie, Hillary, Brandon, Adrian, Roger, Michael and Joshua were placed in holding cells and questioned individually. Initially, Joshua refused to answer any questions and was placed back in the holding cell.  Some hours later, Joshua’s disinclination to talk changed when Lieutenant Dietch notified him that 12-year old Angel Lawrence had been shot and was going to die.

From that point, Joshua cooperated. He provided the police with a statement; even using a map on the wall to identify relevant areas. Eventually, a remorseful Roger Cameron was arrested and provided the police with an eight page statement acknowledging his culpability. Within 44 hours of his arrest, Joshua was released and advised that he would be called on to testify in court. Joshua quit the gang, moved away and got a legitimate job at Arbor Drugs.


“…I never knew Josh went to prison. I [had] thought he just got out of the gang and didn’t come back to the hood because he was also let go shortly after me. So for many years I thought he was free.” – Michael Cluesman, Affidavit (4.22.10).


Joshua was sorrowful but scared.  Rumors arose that Joshua and some of the others were “rats” and they were going to be killed. There was no precedence for something like this in their world and Joshua was plain scared. Although he knew he was obligated to testify at the first trial, Joshua’s fear of the IGMs and/or GDs retaliation prevailed. 


Once a Witness; Now a Defendant


About a month later, Joshua was arrested again. This time he was told he should have showed up to testify when he had the chance because now he was being CHARGED.

“I was there the day that Josh was arrested for the drive by shooting that had happened a few weeks prior. He had vowed in the weeks since the shooting that he was changing his life for good. His changes included renting a house, getting a job and becoming a productive member of society rather than acting like a punk kid. He was determined to change his ways and had a plan on how he was going to do it.” – Tracy Barone, Letter of Support (3/24/10).


Joshua was presented with several plea agreements offering him as few as 6 years in prison. The caveat was that he would have to cooperate and provide information that would solidify his “rat” status.

Link to plea agreement (5.14.1996)


Right before trial, Joshua learned that Daniel, the driver of vehicle, took a plea for 6 to 15 years, instead of risking a trial (Daniel was released after serving 4 years). The prosecution offered one last deal to Joshua but he declined. Not only did Joshua have a misguided sense of loyalty to the members of the gang, he also did not have a comprehensible understanding that under Michigan law, the elements of transferred intent and aiding and abetting made him just as guilty as Roger. Further, if found guilty the mandatory sentence is nondiscretionary; if found guilty, he would receive the same sentence as the primary offender.


“For the offense of first degree premeditated murder the defendant will be placed in the Michigan Department of Corrections for his natural life, as required by law. Mandatory life sentence.” – Honorable Thomas Jackson, Sentencing (7.9.1996).


“… I do recall that prior to the trial in this case there were some offers that were made to Mr. Puckett, that he didn’t accept, it would have certainly been totally different from this …” “… when you roll the dice sometimes like that you take your chances.” – Honorable Thomas Jackson, Statement at Sentencing (7.9.1996)




“I strive every day to be the best me I can be. I can never give Angel Lawrence her life back and I can never take away the pain and turmoil that her murder has caused her family, friends and community. I realize that what I must do is honor her life by changing myself, doing good for others and one day using my story to help other kids from going down the path I went. – Joshua Puckett (2010).


“It is equally clear that the inmate presently has substantial and genuine remorse for his victims.” – Dr. Steven R. Miller, Ph.D. Parole Risk Assessment (6.7.10)


Joshua also acknowledges that promoting the careless use of weapons, participating in a gang, encouraging gang violence and endorsing the gang lifestyle were all reprehensible behaviors.


“I needed to be locked up. I was an angry kid. I was mad at the world and stupid. If I didn’t get locked up, who knows how much further down that path I would have gone. It took about five years of being locked up to even get that out of my system. I think 10 years was about the time I needed to be in to really understand myself, and what it is like to be a good man.” – Joshua Puckett (Proxmire, 7.15.2010)

Proxmire, C. (2010, July 15). Josh Puckett fights for freedom. Between The Lines, Issue 1828. Retrieved from http://www.pridesource.com/article.html?article=42260