Were ‘Ninja” and co-de­fen­dants co­erced into man­slaugh­ter deal?

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL - By

Toni Ni­cholas

Two weeks ago three men ac­cused of mur­der pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of man­slaugh­ter. A source close to the case told the STAR that the three were led to be­lieve that they would get off on time served, hav­ing been im­pris­oned now for more than seven years. “It was felt by those “ad­vis­ing” the ac­cused that “prece­dence” had al­ready been es­tab­lished given the re­cent case in­volv­ing a French na­tional,” said our source.

Eric Som­mer, the French­man who was charged with caus­ing the death of a lo­cal, was sen­tenced to the time served in prison af­ter plead­ing guilty to man­slaugh­ter in March of this year. Som­mer was charged with mur­der in the May 12, 2012 death of Lu­cas Fran­cois at Pi­geon Is­land af­ter it was al­leged that the French­man pushed Fran­cois off a boat and re­fused to as­sist him when he asked for help.

He spent four years at Borde­lais with­out a trial. The lo­cal jus­tice sys­tem came un­der in­tense pres­sure and scru­tiny by the French gov­ern­ment for the na­tional not hav­ing his day in court.

On March 17, 2016 Som­mer was sen­tenced by Jus­tice Mar­garet Price-Findlay af­ter the pros­e­cu­tion ac­cepted the lesser plea. He was im­me­di­ately set free.

Ac­cord­ing to our source, Jonathan ‘Ninja Dan’ St. Rose and his co-de­fen­dants were con­vinced that ac­cept­ing the lesser plea would set them free, hav­ing al­ready been in­car­cer­ated for seven years. But that was not to be. On Thurs­day, St. Rose, along with Lyn­den Blasse and Marvyn Nel­son, were handed a twelveyear sen­tence. The STAR has learnt that the judge will take into con­sid­er­a­tion the time they have served so far.

The three de­fen­dants had been on re­mand since Fe­bru­ary 2009 fol­low­ing a stab­bing in­ci­dent on Satur­day Fe­bru­ary 14, 2009 which left Dwayne “Chubby” James dead.

The highly pub­li­cised case fi­nally got un­der­way on Fe­bru­ary 2, 2015. It ended on Mon­day May 4, 2015 af­ter Jus­tice Fran­cis Cum­ber­batch gave his sum­mary of the case, while of­fer­ing guide­lines and spe­cific in­struc­tions to the jury com­pris­ing seven women and five men.

“You must dis­re­gard what­ever you have heard or read about this case out­side the court­room; you must not al­low any of those voices or events to in­flu­ence your de­ci­sion,” the judge had cau­tioned. "Your de­ci­sion must be based on the ev­i­dence in this case which you con­sider to be re­li­able."

The judge had warned that the ju­rors should not al­low any sym­pa­thy for the de­fen­dants or vic­tims or any of the wit­nesses to in­flu­ence their de­ci­sion.

"The bur­den of proof is on the Di­rec­tor of Pub­lic Prose­cu­tions to prove the guilt of the de­fen­dants who could sit and say ab­so­lutely noth­ing if they so de­cide,” Cum­ber­batch had said.

“Mem­bers of the jury, there is no di­rect ev­i­dence in this case. By that I mean there were no wit­nesses who said that he or she wit­nessed the de­fen­dants stab­bing the de­ceased. The Crown must, how­ever, rely on cir­cum­stan­tial ev­i­dence,” Cum­ber­batch had added.

How­ever the jury could not reach con­sen­sus re­sult­ing in a mis­trial.

Then Di­rec­tor of Pub­lic Prose­cu­tions Vic­to­ria CharlesClarke in­di­cated that she would be seek­ing a re­trial but pro­ceeded on pre-re­tire­ment leave be­fore a date for a new trial was ar­rived at.

Our source is adamant that the man­slaugh­ter plea was a trade-off as per­sons jos­tled for the va­cant post of DPP.

“It is re­ally a sad day for our jus­tice sys­tem when per­sons have to bar­gain their way out of prison if they are on re­mand for too long and tri­als take for­ever if and when they start. This can­not be jus­tice,” said our source.

Two of the ac­cused ar­riv­ing in court.

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