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Tucker murder conviction overturned on appeal

A man found guilty of murder has had the conviction quashed and will now face a retrial, appeal judges ruled yesterday.

Kiari Tucker was jailed last July for at least 25 years for the killing of Morlan Steede plus ten years for use of a firearm.

Mr Tucker, 23, from Warwick, appealed the conviction and sentence.

Court of Appeal judges said that Carlisle Greaves, a former puisne judge, failed to point out that a key figure in the Crown’s original case could not have taken Mr Tucker - at a time specified during the trial - to the area before the shooting happened in November 2017.

The judgment added that, combined with Mr Justice Greaves’s treatment of evidence related to mobile phone masts, “compromised the fairness of the trial and amounted to a substantial miscarriage of justice”.

Sir Christopher Clarke, President of the Court of Appeal, sitting with appeal judges Geoffrey Bell and Maurice Kay, said in a written judgment: “We shall allow the appeal and set aside the conviction and order that there shall be a new trial.”

Mr Tucker pleaded not guilty to the murder of Mr Steede, a 30-year-old father of one, and using a firearm to commit an indictable offence when he appeared in the Supreme Court.

The Court of Appeal judgment summed up the case presented by the Crown, which included that the victim was shot as he was chased through the Deepdale area of Pembroke by a man in dark clothing on the night of November 3, 2017.

Mr Steede collapsed on Parson’s Road and died of his injuries.

The judgment said: “He had been shot four times; three times in the back and once in the arm.”

Appeal judges said that they had “concerns as to the safety” of Mr Tucker’s conviction, including the way that Mr Justice Greaves handled a suggestion that a friend of Mr Tucker’s gave him a lift on his bike to the area of Parson’s Road and Deepdale more than an hour before the killing, which happened at 9.40pm.

The judgment said: “It is apparent that he cannot have done so. But the judge consistently recorded that as the case for the prosecution, and only at a very late stage referred to some figures [inaccurate as it happened] which indicated that that was impossible.

“He did not spell out the fact that, even on what he took to be the correct figures, the prosecution case did not work [and, a fortiori, on the correct ones] and that, if the appellant was taken to Parson’s Road/Deepdale it must have been by someone else. On the contrary he left it open to the jury to decide that the appellant was driven by [the friend] to Parson’s Road/Deepdale.”

The ruling added: “It can be said that it does not matter how the appellant got to where he did at [8.23 and 53 seconds] or who drove him there.”

The ruling said that “the Crown had been making the case” that Mr Tucker was driven there by the friend, who was said to have a “pivotal role” in the murder.

The appeals justices added: “The Crown, we are told, drew back from that case, but the judge persisted with it.

“There seems to us to be a real danger that, in the light of his summing up, and the judge’s persistent enthusiasm for the Crown’s original case, the jury thought that it was open to them to conclude that the appellant had, indeed, been taken to the scene by [the friend], his supposed accomplice, or the person behind the murder and that that was a route, or part of a route, to a guilty verdict.”

Another concern for the appeal court was the way that Mr Justice Greaves dealt with mobile phone evidence, “which he persisted in saying showed that the appellant was at Parson’s Road/Deepdale at [9.51pm]”.

The judgment said: “In the course of his summing up the judge said that the cell site evidence ‘certainly [placed] him in the area at the time of the shooting’, which it did not.”

It added: “In effect, he left it open to the jury to conclude that Mr Tucker had been taken to the murder scene by the person the Crown said was an instigator or an accomplice; and to conclude that the cell site evidence, at worst, indicated that he was at the scene of the shooting when it happened, and, in any event, that he cannot have been where he said he was when he made the [9.51pm] call.

“The form of the summing up had the potential to undermine the central point of the appellant’s defence, which was, in essence, that the closest he got to the scene of the crime was the place where he stored his drugs/the gambling den and that it was there that he was, when he made the [9.51pm] call.

“Although there was a strong case against the appellant, we are not satisfied that if the summing up had not contained these errors, the jury would inevitably have convicted.”

To view the judgment in full, click on the PDF link under “Related Media”

It is The Royal Gazette’s policy not to allow comments on stories regarding criminal court cases. This is to prevent any statements being published that may jeopardise the outcome of that case.

Sir Christopher Clarke, the Court of Appeal president (Photograph from Brick Court Chambers)