~ Lawyers plead not guilty ~
BELAIR--The decisions in the Vesuvius case appeals will be given December 20, the Joint Court of Justice announced Thursday, during the third day of hearings in this marathon trial at Belair Community Centre.
Based on a 94-page closing speech filled with evidence against the suspects, Solicitor-General Taco Stein on Wednesday, requested the Appeals Court to uphold the life sentences for main suspects Omar Jones and Carlos Richardson. He also asked for sentences of between five and nine years for four other suspects in this gang-war case, involving (attempted) murder and manslaughter, firearm possession and membership in a criminal organisation.
It was the defence lawyers' turn Thursday, to respond to the Solicitor-General's demands in their client's cases. The pleadings did not differ much from positions taken at the Court of First Instance. Again, all lawyers pleaded for their clients' full acquittal of all charges.
Attorney Brenda Brooks was not among her pleading colleagues, as she was still absent for medical reasons. The Joint Court set a new date for her pleadings in the cases of Jones and Richardson, which are to be presented during a video-conference with the Court in Curaçao on December 13.
The Prosecutor's Office is holding suspects Ekron "Soca" Morgan, Charles "Duduck" Fleming, Erno Labega and Doniel "Donnell" Thomas responsible for violations of the Fire Weapon Ordinance and of membership in a criminal organisation. Morgan is also considered an accessory to attempted murder, whereas Fleming, Labega and Thomas allegedly assisted in preparing the assault.
Ralph Richardson was the first attorney to address the Court. Richardson said Morgan, who was sentenced to eight years by the Court of First Instance, could not be held for an accessory to the murder of Miguel Arrindell, who was shot and killed on Waterfront Road, Cole Bay, on May 25, 2011.
The lawyer said Morgan was not in Cole Bay that day and unaware that a murder was planned. He denied that Morgan was on the lookout or searching for Arrindell, with whom the brothers Omar and Amador Jones had been entangled in a drug war. Amador Jones was shot dead on April 16, 2011.
"The appearances may be against my client, but he's not a murderer," Richardson said, adding there was "no shred of evidence" that his client had in any way contributed to Arrindell's death.
Richardson aimed his arrows at evidence derived from SMS-messages, which he claimed, were illegally obtained by the Prosecutor. He was also critical of the assistance provided by police officers from islands of the former Netherlands Antilles and the Netherlands in the investigations.
Richardson said the fire-weapon charges were not based on facts. "The Prosecutor's Office is shooting at random," he commented.
Richardson also dismissed claims that Morgan had been a member of the Jones/Labega gang as their drug transport organiser and armoury manager.
In defending Labega, attorney Peggy-Ann Brandon dismissed the statements provided by co-suspect Fleming. He had told the police on November 18, 2011, that after it had become known that Amador Jones was killed by Omax Bye, several persons, Labega among them, decided to search for Bye in seeking revenge.
Brandon presented telecom data in her efforts to convince the Court that the meeting during which the revenge allegedly was discussed had in fact never taken place.
Brandon recommended her client's acquittal of all charges, including the attempted murder of Omax Bye and Kennedy Fergus near Tan Tan supermarket in Dutch Quarter on April 20, 2011. She also denied there was evidence of Labega's involvement in a criminal organisation.
Fleming's lawyer Safira Ibrahim said her client had broken his silence during Wednesday's hearing of his case, during which he said he wanted to retract statements provided to the police in November 2011, because these were incorrect.
"My client filed for appeal because he vehemently denies any involvement in the alleged crimes," Ibrahim said. She pleaded for Fleming's full acquittal, claiming that all evidence against him was based on hearsay.
The lawyer also pointed out that no firearms or ammunition was found during searches at Fleming's house and that no traces of his DNA were found on any confiscated armaments.
Thomas' lawyer Marije Vaders said her client disagreed with his seven-year sentence as meted out by the Court of First Instance. Vaders said she maintained her previous objections against her client's indictment.
Vaders said Thomas confessed to the firearm charges, but stated that the armed revolver, hunting rifle and ammunition found in his house were never used in any Vesuvius crime. In addition, she pleaded not guilty on all other charges.
The Prosecutor's Office is holding Thomas as an accomplice in the assault on Bye and Fergus, and asked for an increase of his prison term from seven to nine years.
The Solicitor-General already responded to Vaders' plea on Thursday. His reaction to the other lawyers' pleadings will follow today, Friday, after which these lawyers will have the opportunity for final remarks.