The trial of two young men accused of murder ended 9 December when Mrs. Justice Priya Levers ruled there was no case for them to answer.
She came to this conclusion after the Prosecution closed its case against Damean Dwayne Seymour and Matio Romario Dinall and defence attorneys presented their no case submissions.
Mrs. Justice Levers said that in assessing the evidence as a whole, she found there was no credible evidence to put to the jury.
In a jury trial it is generally explained that the judge is the judge of the law and the jury is the judge of the facts. In this case, the defendants elected to be tried by judge alone, but the standard test for a no case submission remains the same.
Damean and Matio were charged after Joseph Alexander Williams was fatally shot on the night of 12 February in an area of George Town known as Central. Both defendants live in the area. Damean was arrested the same night, Matio six days later.
Senior Crown Counsel Adam Roberts acknowledged from the beginning that the case was based on a number of eyewitnesses. If they were not believed, then other ‘supporting’ evidence would not assist.
As defence attorneys pointed out later, no gun was ever recovered. Both defendants, as well as their clothing, tested negative for gunshot residue.
The first witness told the court he was sitting on a porch with other people and he could see Joe across the street standing up talking with another male person for about a half hour.
Matio and Damean walked up onto the porch and Damean pulled a gun out of his pocket and sat down. Matio told a resident of the house to turn off the porch light. The two then walked across the street to where Joe was standing with the other person.
Matio said, ‘Killa [Joe’s nickname], give me a light.’ The witness said he saw Joe flick the lighter and then he heard something like an explosion.
Then Joe was lying on the ground. Damean, Matio and the other person left.
The witness was then cross-examined by Stephen Pownall QC on behalf of Damean and by Trevor Burke QC on behalf of Matio.
He agreed that he lied when police spoke to him the night of the murder and he told them he didn’t see anything. His reason for lying was that he was afraid for his life. He said his life had been threatened the day after the murder.
He further stated that when he did make a statement to police six days after the murder, he did tell the officer he had been threatened but she didn’t write it down.
He agreed that at one point he named another person as the one who shot Joe. He told this lie because he was threatened. He also told police another man had been given the gun to dispose of. He agreed that also was a lie.
After naming Damean and Matio, he signed a retraction letter in front of a Justice of the Peace, the witness agreed. He hadn’t read it and he denied that the JP asked if he had read it before signing.
He agreed he had been a cocaine addict but said he was not under the influence the night of the murder, as he only drank four beers.
Mr. Pownall put three versions of the alleged threat to the witness: that the person issuing the threat asked him to tell lies; that the one making the threat asked him if he told lies; that the threatener asked if the witness had given a statement and the witness said no and walked away.
The witness said yes to all three. ‘They’re all the same to me,’ he commented.
The second witness said he was walking into the neighbourhood and saw four girls sitting in a car. One called to him and before he reached them he heard a sound like a fire rocket. He was facing toward where he saw Joe standing in front of his van. He did not see anyone else until after the fire cracker sound.
Then he saw Joe lying on the ground. Damean was standing there, then turned and walked away.
The witness went over to Joe and called his name but did not get any answer. Then Matio came from behind a nearby bar. He told Matio, ‘Let’s get out of here, Debo [Damean] just killed Joe.’
In cross-examination, the witness said he had consumed cocaine about a half hour earlier and had come to look for some more.
He said he was positive he saw Damean before he went over to Joe. Damean was talking to a girl over by the youth centre. He agreed that he never saw a gun in Damean’s hand and never saw Damean fire a shot.
‘I didn’t see him lift his hand and shoot, but I heard the shot and looked up and saw him walking away from the deceased.’
The third witness was on the porch with the first witness, Matio, Damean and ‘one or two other guys’.
He thought it was Matio who asked for the porch light to be turned off. ‘When the guys come and have drugs we cuts the light off,’ he explained.
Then he and the first witness went inside the house to use drugs. The first witness went back outside before he did.
This third witness saw Joe across the street sitting on a car. Three girls were there talking to him. One of the girls was Damean’s friend and he was talking to them, too.
When he heard what sounded like a shot, he looked around and didn’t see anybody. He went back in the house ‘because it didn’t seem right.’
Cross-examined, he said he wasn’t sure who the other people on the porch were. ‘My mind was really on getting inside and getting the drugs.’
He said police had questioned him about a gun. He told them he didn’t take a gun and didn’t see a gun. They asked what he was lying for.
Tears came to the witness’ eyes as he described how police beat him. They ‘kick me all about, bust up my ear, take up a big book and swat me.’ He said he was kept in custody 14 days.
When he came back out of the house after doing drugs, Matio was nowhere to be seen. He was nowhere near Joe and the girls.