Men had the motive and opportunity to commit double shooting, says prosecutor
The evidence against two men accused of a gang-related double shooting proves they are guilty, according to a prosecutor.
Cindy Clarke told the jury Sanchey Grant and Jahmel Blakeney had the motive and opportunity to commit the crime outside Southside Cinema on November 13 2009.
Ms Clarke said that was backed up by scientific evidence. But lawyers for the accused men cast doubt on the scientific findings, and Mr Blakeney's lawyer, Charles Richardson, said prosecution evidence about gang links was “a crass attempt to poison your minds with the paranoia of the moment”.
According to Ms Clarke, Parkside associate Mr Blakeney masterminded the attempted murder of footballer Shaki Minors and his pregnant girlfriend Renee Kuchler after spotting them at the cinema in St David's.
She alleged that Mr Blakeney left the movie without watching it in order to drive back to Pembroke and arrange for his co-accused, Mr Grant, 20, to come and shoot the victims.
Mr Minors and Ms Kuchler were seriously injured when a gunman opened fire on them as they left the cinema. Ms Minors lost her baby as a result, and nearly lost her leg. Mr Minors has lost the feeling in some of his fingers.
Mr Minors who has lost a brother to gun violence believes the attack was perpetrated by the Parkside gang due to his links to the rival 42 gang. Police expert Alexander Rollin named Mr Grant as a member of Parkside earlier in the trial, and Mr Blakeney as an associate.
In her closing speech, Ms Clarke said the theory about the shooting being motivated by gang rivalry is backed up by Mr Blakeney's cell phone records. She said he placed calls that night to Kinte Smith, a member of Parkside affiliates Middletown. Mr Smith was at one time charged over the shooting too, although he is no longer before the courts.
Mr Richardson, however, told the jury the phone records prove nothing, and the jury has heard no evidence proving Mr Blakeney even saw Mr Minors at the movie theatre.
Ms Clarke also alleged that eyewitness accounts from the scene of the shooting match the appearance of Sanchey Grant and the clothing he was wearing that night.
Gunshot residue was found on one of a pair of gloves police say they found in the passenger-side footwell of a jeep Mr Grant was travelling in when he was arrested. Mr Blakeney, who was driving the jeep, said in his evidence that he'd never seen the gloves before they were presented in court.
GSR was also found on Mr Blakeney's jacket which was found in the car.
Mr Richardson told the jury it is impossible to know how the GSR got on to the items, and “it may well be an innocent transfer,” as such residue can rub off on people and items that come into contact with it.
“We live on a small island where guns have been popping off regular,” noted Mr Richardson. “We don't know who had Jahmel's car before he got it. It's his sister's car. He just picked it up that night.”
He urged: “Don't let the GSR or any of the scientific evidence assume any greater significance in your mind than it deserves.”
According to DNA expert Candy Zuleger, the accused men may possibly have left their DNA on the grip of the pistol used in the shooting. However, she admitted the statistics pointing to a match were “very low”. Mr Richardson suggested the statistics are so insignificant that the DNA “could have been the judge's for all we know.”
According to police witnesses, Mr Blakeney failed to stop for a police roadblock when he was spotted exiting St David's and accelerated instead. The jeep eventually came to a halt, and Ms Clarke suggested that gave the men time to discard the firearm used in the shooting, which was found by the side of the road the next day.
Mr Richardson said the gun would have been found by the police who searched for it that night, had it been there, as it was there “as bold as day”.
Ms Clarke also pointed to text messages sent earlier in the evening by Mr Blakeney's girlfriend after they left the cinema. Jalicia Crockwell told a female friend via text message that Mr Blakeney “saw some guy and just ran”.
“We say that's Shaki,” said Ms Clarke. Ms Crockwell also told the jury she came to the conclusion that her boyfriend was “going to get some guy”.
Mr Richardson cast doubt on the idea that Mr Blakeney would want to mastermind an attempted murder. He pointed out that Mr Minors knew Mr Blakeney from football and did not speak, during his testimony, of them having any gripe with one another.
He dismissed the evidence of Sgt Rollin about gang links as “highly speculative guesswork”. And, said Mr Richardson: “He ain't even put Jahmel as a [Parkside] member. He's going to mastermind a shooting on behalf of some people he ain't even a member of? Are you serious?”
According to Mr Blakeney, after he dropped his girlfriend back at her home, he spent the rest of the evening smoking drugs and drinking with his friend Carlton “CJ” Darrell Jr and then Mr Grant. Mr Darrell has since died.
“We say that's real convenient,” commented Ms Clarke. Mr Richardson took issue with that, saying: “It's not right to say he is trying to take advantage of a dead man.”
The prosecutor concluded her speech by saying: “We ask you to return the only verdict that this evidence supports and fairness demands, that the defendant Blakeney and the defendant Grant are guilty of attempted murder, guilty of possessing that firearm and guilty of possessing the ammunition that day.”
However, Mr Richardson urged: “There's nothing that can convince you beyond reasonable doubt that Jahmel Blakeney has masterminded anything.”
Referring to his smoking habit, and the language employed by Ms Clarke during her speech, he concluded: “My learned friend has used the word 'maybe' so many times. More times than you've seen me outside smoking a cigarette. I'm sure you will reach the right verdict and you will find Jahmel Blakeney not guilty.”
A defence lawyer criticised police officers and a prosecution expert who testified during the Southside Cinema shooting trial.
Jerome Lynch QC urged the jury to accept the alibi of his client, Sanchey Grant, and reject the evidence of the Crown witnesses.
Mr Grant's case is that he was elsewhere on November 13 2009; the night alleged gang member Shaki Crockwell and his girlfriend Renee Kuchler were shot and injured outside Southside Cinema in St David's.
Prosecutors accuse Mr Grant, 20, of being the gunman who attacked the couple at the behest of his co-accused, Jahmel Blakeney, 30. The shooting was said to be linked to gang rivalry.
Mr Grant exercised his right not to give evidence in his own defence during the case, which Mr Lynch said was his “absolute inalienable right”.
Prosecution witness Jalicia Crockwell told the jury Mr Grant was a friend of her family, and he was at her home at the time of the shooting. Her mother, Julie Walker, was called as a witness for the defence and said the same thing.
In his closing speech yesterday, Mr Lynch told the jury: “It's his case: 'I was not there,' says Mr Grant. If you think it may be true (then) he is not guilty and you don't have to consider the rest.”
Ms Walker complained, during her evidence, that police accused her of fabricating her statement and even arrested her for perverting justice and kept her in custody overnight. She alleged that officers “badgered” her to change her account of events, which she refused to do.
She alleged that Detective Inspector Michael Redfern “lied” to her and told her there were hundreds of witnesses who saw Mr Grant that night. She added that her complaint about the police was never replied to.
“Is that how citizens are to be treated? You see on a taxi or a bus a sign saying 'break the silence, speak up, help the police',” said Mr Lynch. “But if you don't help the police in the way they want you to you're going to be arrested for perverting the course of justice.”
Mr Lynch also criticised police gang expert Alexander Rollin for describing Mr Grant as a member of the Parkside gang, based on the people he associates with. He said Sgt Rollin admitted knowing “nothing at all” about Mr Grant's personal background.
“Do not convict him simply because he's associated with Parkside, because that would criminalise a lot of young people,” said Mr Lynch. “Mr Grant is not charged with membership of such a gang; in fact there's no such criminal offence. Perhaps there should be, but there's not yet.”
He went on to accuse police who were supposed to be manning a roadblock at St David's that night of “complete incompetence”. He pointed out that when officers from that roadblock chased the jeep Mr Blakeney and Mr Grant were travelling in, they left the checkpoint completely unmanned.
“You have to wonder at the insanity of it,” said Mr Lynch. “It is truly staggering.”
He then trained his sights on prosecution DNA expert Candy Zuleger who gave what she admitted were “weak” statistics about DNA evidence that could “possibly” link the defendants to the gun used in the attack.
According to Mr Lynch, who called evidence from his own DNA expert to counter Ms Zuleger's, her figures relating to the DNA were “ridiculously low”. He suggested she felt that if she didn't come up with something, her evidence would not have been allowed before the court.
“It is a wholly unworthy response from a scientist,” said Mr Lynch. “It positively misleads you. The nature of DNA conjures up in one's mind a kind of magic about what science can do and it flies in the face of true objectivity.”
In this case, he said, “It's unworthy of a scientist to do that.”
He urged the jury to clear Mr Grant's name. Mr Grant and Mr Blakeney deny charges of attempted murder, gun possession and bullet possession, and the case continues.