After defendant Wayne Couzen – sentenced to 15 years in prison for shooting two African American men dead in Petersburg, Va., in 2015 – was led to his chair in Circuit Court in Petersburg, Va., on Friday, Richmond native Kisha Hubbard—who had watched him rise from poverty to the city’s upper-crust and whose husband served with him in the Army—turned to the judge.
“This jury found you guilty of a heinous crime,” the judge began.
Hubbard, who has been married to Admon (a professional photographer who has shot many of Virginia’s African-American leaders for the Advancement Project) for 15 years, faced expressionless, furrowed brows as Circuit Court Judge Cynthia Hayes turned to face her. Her husband looked back at his loved one and her.
From 2003 to 2010, the Richmond-area couple was brought together by, as Kisha Hubbard put it, their “addictions to drugs.” She grew up with criminal records and poverty. He was paralyzed and found himself in a wheelchair. Despite falling out of therapy programs, he eventually landed a job as a heavy equipment operator, and the couple were fighting for custody of their children.
And then in 2015, after getting the children a new residence and staying clean for an entire year, Wayne Couzen entered the home of 18-year-old Braylon Haggins and 20-year-old Deandre Chavis.
Though Haggins and Chavis were unarmed, their shootings sparked riots in Petersburg and protests about police violence.
A day after Haggins’ death, Couzen—accused of opening fire on the unarmed men with his Glock handgun—was himself shot and injured.
“While reviewing the police body camera footage last night I felt obligated to speak,” Kisha Hubbard wrote in an email to her husband’s attorney in August. “I wanted to make sure you heard my story about me and my children who have been directly affected by you.”
The couple had six children: four boys and two girls. And all of them went to court with Kisha Hubbard on Friday.
“This is a pivotal moment in my children’s life,” she wrote. “My six children are in court, it is important to them to be there and receive support from their brothers. My parents and my sister are coming to support my children.”
Kisha Hubbard acknowledged to the judge that the brutality of the police shootings— particularly those involving transgender people, veterans and African Americans—had been a large part of her family’s problems with police. But she said it was “unconscionable” that her husband’s original trial had occurred after a shooting that killed two people.
“We have gone through so much as a family,” she wrote. “For your honor, it was a hard day for us to not be in court, and I looked forward to being in the audience to hear the verdict and support you. . . . But on that day, my focus was not on anything else. I was simply there to support my children and to be there as their voice.”
Kisha Hubbard’s children—10, 7, 5, and 2—delivered an emotional statement to the judge that included issues including “traumatic memories” of their father, the couple’s various drug arrests and how they now process their own confrontations with police officers.
Kisha Hubbard said: “My children are so much more than my children. They are my world. They are a family, so the fact that you took my husband away from them is a hard blow. And while they understand that their father is doing life in prison for a murder that was self-defense, they will never heal. Even though I did this to our home, this crime committed against our son did not ‘destroy’ our family. My children did not witness the ‘crime’ in person.”
She added: “I raised my children to be strong. They have many loves, they have many brothers, sisters, and relatives around the world. My children watched my husband stand before you on December 28th. The silence of my children quietly watching their father face justice speaks volumes.”
— Lisa McDaniel