'We waited hours for Judge Vonda Evans,' family of slain veteran says

DETROIT (WXYZ) - Judge Vonda Evans says she’s not hurting anyone when she comes and goes as she pleases at Third Circuit Court. Tonight, the family of a murdered man says she hurt them plenty.

Evans presided over the 2016 murder trial of the man accused of killing 81-year-old veteran Robert Ybarra in 2016.

Ybarra was killed after trying to break up a fight involving Tywaun Coakley on Detroit’s southwest side. Coakley ran over Ybarra with his car. He later died.

When Coakley was finally charged, the Ybarra family made sure they were in court every single day, always on time.

“Let me tell you something,” Judge Evans told Channel 7’s Ross Jones on Monday. “People are not sitting in any court, and I challenge you, from 9 o’clock to 4:30.  No one is doing that.”

The Ybarras showed up to court as early as 8:30 AM, saying they were told by the Wayne County Prosecutor to be in place by 9:00 AM, or risk not getting a seat.  

“I knew the courtroom  was going to be busy,” said Ybarra’ son Rafael.

When court was supposed to begin, the attorneys were in the building, the jurors and  defendant were too.  But always missing at 9:00 AM, the family says, was the same person.

“The very first day we were there, the judge was a no show that day. We weren’t given a reason,” Ybarra said. “The very next day, she shows up at 11:30 AM.”

Evans’ attendance was so bad that the Ybarras started keeping notes of just when she arrived and court began. 

“12:10 PM,” reads their notebook.  “10:40 AM.  11:00 AM.  10:57 AM.  10:30 AM.”

One of the darkest times in their lives, the Ybarras say, was made worse by Judge Evans. Today by phone, she told us she can’t remember the case well enough to make a comment. 

“We were there on time, every single day we were told to be there,” Ybarra said. “And to know now that the judge just came and went as she pleased, not important to her, just another case. Another file.  Let’s move on.”

Coakley was convicted of manslaughter in December 2016, sentenced to up to 15 years in prison.

Contact 7 Investigator Ross Jones at ross.jones@wxyz.com or at (248) 827-9466.

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